Sen. Kramer, Dels. Solomon & Wilson Reintroduce Landmark Bill to Protect Kids Online

For Immediate Release

Maryland Kids Code Revisions Build on Growing Safety-By-Design Legislation Momentum

Advocates applaud lawmakers’ commitment to youth digital security & privacy

Annapolis, MD – Sen. Ben Kramer and Dels. Jared Solomon and CT Wilson today announced their reintroduction of the Maryland Kids Code, legislation to make online technology safer for young users and protect their privacy. Advocates including parents, families, educators, technologists, and medical professionals hailed the lawmakers’ reintroduction of the age-appropriate design code bills as a landmark step in efforts to enhance public safety by protecting Maryland children and teens online.

“Online platforms purposely design their products to keep kids on screens, track kids’ activity, and then monetize the data they collect to increase profits – no matter the cost to Maryland kids and families,” said Sen. Kramer. “With the Maryland Kids Code, we’re fighting to improve young people’s digital experiences by requiring tech companies to implement privacy-by-default and safety-by-design protections for kids online.”

Endorsed by organizations including the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) and the Maryland Association of Student Councils, the consumer protection bill would require that tech companies design online products reasonably likely to be accessed by children under 18 with young users’ best interests in mind while protecting their privacy.

“The Maryland Kids Code makes online platforms responsible and holds them accountable for designing their products with kids’ privacy, safety, and wellness in mind,” said Del. Solomon. “In Maryland, we cannot stand by while tech companies recklessly expose young people to unacceptable and avoidable risks in the name of profit. Our kids are not commodities.”

The legislation’s introduction follows a lawsuit about social media’s impact on the health and well-being of children filed by over 40 state Attorneys General, including Maryland’s, suing Instagram and Facebook owner Meta for intentionally designing addictive and harmful products. The Kids Code’s age-appropriate design framework has already been implemented abroad to address risks such as those identified in the lawsuit by Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown. For example, TikTok and Instagram no longer allow adult strangers to message children and teens under 18.

“As legislators, it’s our job to pass bills that protect Maryland residents. As a litigator, I see that tech companies are currently using the courts to block basic safety standards for kids online. The Maryland Kids Code is a strong bill, and we will not be scared off by the tech lobby’s scarecrow arguments, deceptive tactics, and intimidation efforts,” said Del. Wilson. “States have a substantial government interest in protecting kids’ data privacy, and mandating design changes to keep kids safe online should not be a violation of the Constitution. We demand companies test and redesign their products for safety in every other industry, why not tech?”

“Our coalition of young people, parents, teachers, health professionals, technologists and business leaders thanks Sen. Kramer, Del. Solomon and Del. Wilson for leading this critical effort to protect Maryland kids and teens online,” said Gabriela Romo, mental health counselor and Maryland Kids Code Coalition advocate. “As parents of young people calling for a better, safer digital world, we urge our legislators in Annapolis to take action and pass the Maryland Kids Code into law.”

Building on momentum from the 2023 session, when the legislation passed the House of Delegates by an overwhelming margin, the 2024 bill has been updated to strengthen legal definitions, incorporate community feedback, and reflect new insights as similar youth protections come into effect around the globe. Specific provisions in the legislation would protect Maryland kids online by requiring companies to conduct risk assessments evaluating whether companies’ use of children’s data and design features could be addictive or harmful; ensuring all settings for children are set to high privacy by default; providing easily accessible reporting tools for privacy and behavior concerns; and prohibiting covered platforms from collecting and retaining any personal information from children that is not necessary for the service being provided.

Similar legislation passed in California in 2022, but is being challenged by Big Tech lobby group NetChoice in court based on the overreaching argument that tech companies’ business practices should be granted the status of First Amendment speech and prioritized over children’s right to privacy from surveillance and protection from predatory conduct online. NetChoice’s arguments have drawn widespread refutation from experts in law, health and medicine, and technology, and California Attorney General Rob Bonta continues to fight the case in court.

Community voices calling for the 2024 Maryland Kids Code

Why we need action on Kids Code legislation