ANNAPOLIS — Delegates C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County) and Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery County) and Senators Chris West (R-Baltimore County) and Benjamin Kramer (D-Montgomery County) today announced legislation designed to protect children’s privacy online and overhaul safety standards across social media and internet platforms commonly accessed by minors.
- TikTok turning off strangers’ ability to message kids
- Google turning on Safe Search by default
- YouTube disabling autoplay by default for users under the age of 18
Kids in Maryland currently do not have these protections and rights, but the Age Appropriate Design Code would change that.
Specifically, the legislation will:
- Require tech companies to design products accessed by children to be designed with children’s well-being in mind.
- Restrict data collection and profiling of children in ways that are detrimental to children – reducing the risk of harmful materials and risky connections being pushed towards children.
- Require high privacy settings by default, switch off geolocation, and prohibit the use of nudge techniques that encourage children to weaken their privacy protections.
- Make clear how young users can control their feeds to tailor their experience to the information and materials they want to view.
Delegate Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery County):
“As a father and former high school teacher, I’m proud to be leading this bipartisan coalition supporting the Maryland Age Appropriate Design Code. We know that this type of law is already working — young people in the UK have more rights and are safer online than our children in Maryland. This legislation creates a proactive space for online companies to innovate and design their platforms for the safety of children at the forefront.”
Delegate C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County):
“There are no more important and vulnerable citizens to protect than our children. Safety should be part of every part of our kids’ lives, including the internet. Our message to tech companies is simple: children are not commodities to be capitalized and preyed upon. We’re not telling them how to do their job, we’re telling them the job we need them to do – to find a way to protect our kids from everything from online stalking to gambling.”
Senator Benjamin Kramer (D-Montgomery County):
“This bipartisan measure is about the rights of children. The moment children start using the internet, their information is grabbed and stored and organized by these online companies. We need to start recognizing that privacy by design is key to the future safety of our children online.”
Christine McComas, a Howard County mother who lost her daughter Grace after cyberbullying on the internet:
“Big Tech’s products aren’t designed with kids’ safety in mind. They’re designed to keep them online for longer, driving up profits with little care for the collateral damage. But that damage has names and faces, dreams lost and beautiful young lives never lived. In early April it will be an unbelievable 11 years since I last hugged my bubbly and kind blue-eyed girl – and yet the dangers and the deaths continue, and parents still have little ability to protect their children. I am heartened that Maryland will be a leader in the fight to protect children online.”
Lola Nordlinger, a recent high school graduate from Montgomery County and student leader on the need for tech reform:
“Tech algorithms are designed to prey on users’ insecurities in order to keep us addicted. Companies prioritize their profits over our well-being and it shows – girls my age are struggling more with mental health than ever before and there are direct correlations with technology. This is a step in the right direction to change the narrative of how technology should function to benefit, not harm, young people.”
Cheryl Bost, a 4th and 5th grade teacher from Baltimore County and Maryland State Education Association President:
“Educators have seen up close the damage that social media sites and the internet can inflict upon our students—leading to bullying, addiction, and harmful mental health impacts. We shouldn’t settle for this status quo and what it’s doing to our young people, and that’s why MSEA is proud to support the Maryland Age Appropriate Design Code to put commonsense guardrails in place for minors online.”
Baroness Beeban Kidron, a member of the United Kingdom House of Lords and founder and chair of 5Rights Foundation, lead advocate of Age Appropriate Design Code passed in the UK:
“The Code is working in the UK. We’ve seen comprehensive, thoughtful design change already. This is about design and product safety that all kids around the globe deserve to have, and I’m grateful to lawmakers in Maryland for advocating for this legislation.”
- Recording of Zoom press conference earlier today. Passcode: W4RR!p8L
- Fact sheet about the Maryland Age Appropriate Design Code
- Design It For Us youth advocacy group supporting the Age Appropriate Design Code