The Kids Online Safety Act Faces an Unclear Future

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In early 2024, the Senate garnered enough support to potentially pass the Kids Online Safety Act—a major privacy law focused on content moderation for minors. Though the bill does not seem to cover higher education institutions, the EDUCAUSE Policy team will be asking for clarification about whether certain scenarios would create compliance concerns for colleges and universities.

In late February, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) amassed over sixty cosigners, signifying that the Senate has enough bipartisan support to bypass a filibuster once the bill goes to the floor for a vote. KOSA is intended to minimize harms—such as mental health disorders, addiction, sexual exploitation, and bullying—to minors under the age of seventeen that may arise from the use of an online platform.Footnote1

The bill appears to target social media websites and applications, given its definition of "covered platform," which includes online platforms, online video games, messaging applications, and streaming services that are used or are likely to be used by minors. Notably, KOSA explicitly excludes higher education institutions and libraries from the definition of "covered platform." While EDUCAUSE and the higher education community welcome this exclusion, questions arise regarding whether institutions could be pulled into the requirements of the bill when they use or embed social media platforms on their websites and applications. For example, would colleges and universities become covered platforms if they embed a YouTube video on their website? The EDUCAUSE Policy team intends to request further clarification from Capitol Hill on this issue.

The bill imposes new safeguarding requirements for minors on entities that are included in the "covered platform" definition. Covered platforms would be mandated to provide minors with the following "readily accessible and easy-to-use safeguards":

  • Limiting the ability of others to communicate with minors
  • Preventing other users from viewing minors' personal data that is collected or shared on the covered platform
  • Limiting features that increase, sustain, or extend the use of the covered platform, which includes automatic playing of media, rewards for time spent in the platform, notifications, and other features that result in compulsive use
  • Controlling personalized recommendation systems for minors
  • Restricting the sharing of minors' geolocation data with other usersFootnote2

In addition to the safeguards listed above, the bill also requires covered platforms to provide options for deleting a minor's account and personal data collected on the covered platform. KOSA also mandates that platforms offer options to limit the amount of time a minor can spend on a covered platform, parental tools to manage a minor's account, and a reporting mechanism for users to report harm to a minor.Footnote3

Although the Senate has sufficient bipartisan support to bypass a possible filibuster, it is unclear when Senate leadership plans to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. Even if the bill passes the Senate, it is also unclear whether the bill would receive the same level of bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Additionally, both chambers of Congress have arguably larger legislative priorities that they need to address before the 2024 election season. All of this leaves the future of KOSA uncertain.

EDUCAUSE plans to work with other interested associations to determine whether common uses of social media platform resources would impact a higher education institution's exclusion from the "covered platform" definition and subject it to KOSA requirements. In the meantime, the EDUCAUSE Policy team will keep members apprised of the movement of the bill in the Senate and House. We encourage members to review KOSA requirements in case certain situations might conceivably pull an institution into the scope of the legislation.


  1. Kids Online Safety Act, S. 1409, 118th Congress (2023). Jump back to footnote 1 in the text.
  2. Ibid. Jump back to footnote 2 in the text.
  3. Ibid. Jump back to footnote 3 in the text.

Bailey Graves is a Senior Associate at Ulman Public Policy.

© 2024 Bailey Graves. The content of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.