Microsoft, X throw their weight behind KOSA, the controversial kids online safety bill | TechCrunch
On the eve of Wednesday’s Big Tech hearing (both Big Tech and a big hearing — five CEOs are testifying as we speak), Microsoft stepped up to back a controversial bill that aims to protect children from the dangers of social media. In the early hours of the hearing, X CEO Linda Yaccarino also climbed aboard.
“Senator, we support KOSA and we’ll continue to make sure that it accelerates and make sure to continue to offer community for teens that are seeking that voice,” Yaccarino said when asked if X, formerly Twitter, will support the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). The question came when KOSA co-sponsor Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) went down the line of tech CEOs asking if each company would back his legislation.
The answer was strangely worded given that KOSA is not yet law, but Yaccarino didn’t offer any of the qualifiers of her more reluctant peers. In a statement to TechCrunch, X confirmed the company’s backing for the bill. “We support the Kids Online Safety Act and will work to preserve freedom of speech for all groups,” X spokesperson Joe Benarroch said.
Snap’s Evan Spiegel restated his company’s previous commitment to supporting the new proposal to regulate social media apps. “Senator, we strongly support the Kids Online Safety Act and we’ve already implemented many of its core provisions,” Spiegel said.
Meta, Discord and TikTok all demurred, pointing to groups that have criticized the bill or stating that they support some of its parts and not others. “Senator, with some changes we can support it,” TikTok CEO Shou Chew said. “We are aware that some groups have raised some concerns.”
Mark Zuckerberg similarly agreed with the “basic spirit” of the bill while declining to endorse it. Discord’s Jason Citron said his company supported “parts” of the proposal but declined to say yes, stating that Discord would prefer to support a national privacy standard.
In spite of some revisions, the bill’s many critics have warned that KOSA would dangerously sanitize the internet, empower censorship and isolate young LGBTQ people in the process. Security, privacy and free press advocates have also called attention to the bill’s potential threat to encryption. The bill was revised last year in response to some criticisms, but many concerns persist.
While X and Snap are popular social apps, they’re on the fringe compared to the heft of a company like Microsoft. Microsoft, now worth roughly $3 trillion, is currently the most valuable company in the world and a sophisticated operator in the world of policy that’s been around long enough to know how to play the game.
While X and Snap are likely hoping that their KOSA support will either generally endear them to regulators or have a much worse impact on rival companies, Microsoft probably has its sights set on a different issue entirely. Unlike its peers testifying on Capitol Hill, Microsoft doesn’t own a traditional social media network steered by algorithms (Discord is also a notable exception here). For Microsoft, AI is the name of the game — and throwing support behind a bill that will change the rules for social media companies might buy it some regulatory goodwill where it counts.