March 05, 2024

Auchincloss Announces Guest For President Biden’s State Of The Union Address And Social Media Legislation

Newton, MA - Congressman Jake Auchincloss (D, MA-04) is announcing Brookline's Myrieme Nadri-Churchill (M.Ed) as his guest for President Biden’s State of the Union Address to Congress on Thursday, March 7th. Myrieme serves as Executive Director of Parents for Peace, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering families, friends, and communities to prevent radicalization, violence, and extremism using a public health approach.

Parents for Peace began as a support group for other families who had lost loved ones to extremism and soon expanded to offer a confidential helpline to assist families grappling with new cases of extremism

With antisemitism rapidly increasing throughout the country, and specifically Massachusetts, the work Myrieme is doing is more crucial than ever. Nadri-Churchill’s unusual combination of intervention and coaching experience shaped the unique methodology of the Parents for Peace helpline. She has helped hundreds of American families successfully intervene to rescue loved ones falling into extremism. 

In addition to announcing his guest, Auchincloss is introducing the Verifying Kids’ Online Privacy Act. Most of the young individuals that Parents for Peace works with were radicalized by extremist groups through social media. Amid rising youth mental health challenges and continued negligence on the part of social media companies to serve the best interests of our children online, Congress must enact stronger protections to ensure social media companies are held accountable and that parents may have confidence in how their children use social media. 

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which took effect in 2000, requires that a website operator have increased protections for children under 13, including verifying parental consent before collecting any personal information. Major social media companies have, by and large, decided that it is easier to not allow kids under 13 to use their services instead of complying with this “burdensome” requirement. However, companies often simply ask users to input their birthday when creating an account, which is easily faked. 

This legislation would take two major steps to address the gaps in COPPA’s protections: 1) increasing the age of those protected from 13 to 16, and 2) requiring social media companies to develop privacy-protective methods of verifying the age of its users to ensure that COPPA’s protections extend to all children on a platform. 

Requiring age verification would constitute a critical step in ensuring that companies uphold the protections included in COPPA. Importantly, this legislation would not require a specific age verification method, but would allow for companies to design a privacy-protective method that fits their platform, while still requiring those companies to submit these processes to the Federal Trade Commission to be considered for COPPA’s existing safe harbor provisions. Companies would also be barred from selling, transferring, or otherwise using any data collected in the verification process for any purpose other than verification. 

Lastly, this legislation would establish a Children’s Online Safety Fund to support Department of Education grants that support digital literacy programs to promote safe and healthy internet use for children. The Fund would be financed by civil penalties obtained by the federal government from violations of COPPA. 

“As the youngest parent in the Democratic caucus, I speak daily with parents who are stressed about their children’s social media usage, and I speak with youth who are made increasingly lonely and anxious as a result of their social media habits. Meanwhile, trillion-dollar social media corporations continue to productize our children to sell ads. Congress must fight back on behalf of parents and children, who don’t have the time or resources to outfox algorithms. My legislation directly holds social media corporations accountable for their negligent approach to our children’s wellbeing,” said Auchincloss

"The ease of access to manipulative ideological content has enabled the variety of radicalizations we see in our helpline work with families, from White Supremacy and ISIS to eco-terrorism and Antifa. The families come from a broad cross-section of American society, with children being radicalized as young as 12. Seeing the harsh realities of this every day, I urge our leaders to support policies that limit minors' access to social media platforms and increase parental supervision over their online activities,” said Churchill, Executive Director of Parents for Peace.