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TikTok Attempts to Rein In Weight Loss Posts

Emma Lembke did not know what an algorithm was when she started using social media.

The then-12-year-old was thrilled when her parents gave her permission to join Instagram. She quickly followed all kinds of accounts — from Kim Kardashian to Olive Garden, she said — and was soon spending five to six hours a day on the app. Then one day she searched for “ab workouts,” and her feed shifted. She started seeing 200-calorie recipes, pro-anorexia posts and exercise routines that “no 12-year-old should be doing in their bedroom,” she said.

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Maryland governor signs online data privacy bills

Design It For Us, a coalition advocating for safer social media and online platforms for children, praised the new law. “We hope this will bring urgency to other states to pass and adopt much needed Kids Code legislation and end Big Tech’s power over our safety and privacy,” said Zamaan Qureshi, a co-chair of the group.

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Social Media Companies Are Having a Bad Moment

Zamaan Qureshi speaks during a rally organized by Accountable Tech and Design It For Us to hold social media companies accountable for protecting kids and teens online on January 31, 2024, in Washington, DC.

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4 Gen Z Activists Revolutionizing Big Tech

Design It For Us is endorsing a few bills on the federal level to improve these laws. You can view them here. One bill, the Kids Online Safety Act, is near the forefront of most minds. Some highlights include: An annual report on foreseeable risks of a given platform, disclosing specified information, not advertising certain products (such as nicotine) to young people, and allowing consumers and guardians to report certain harms.

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Big Tech won’t be able to track kids’ data in Maryland under new bill

In testimony for the bill, Arielle Geismar, a student at George Washington University who works with the national advocacy group Design It For Us, shared her personal experience of falling into a pit of social media posts about eating disorders that told her to starve herself. As she tried to understand what she was seeing, the platform served up more and more posts celebrating dangerous eating habits. She said the companies that design products to be as addicting as possible by using notifications to get children to open an app and endless scroll to keep them there are ruining young people’s lives.

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New version of KOSA picks up speed

Youth-led coalition Design it for Us: “The latest improvements to the Kids Online Safety Act are welcome changes that would ensure this bill cannot be weaponized to restrict civil liberties – the result of the tireless advocacy of young people desperate for change to protect our generation online.”

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The result of all Washington-Silicon Valley tech showdowns? Nothing.

That was driven home by protesters at Wednesday’s hearing who wore T-shirts that read “I’m worth more than $270,” a reference to an internal Meta email disclosed in litigation brought by state attorneys general claiming that “the lifetime value of a [13-year-old] teen is roughly $270.” Demeaning though it sounds, this is merely standard business talk meaning that Meta assumes it will capture $270 in total for every teenage user over the course of their lives. But it shows exactly how the company views its customers.

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Senators find tech CEOs’ responses hollow after four-hour hearing

One thing tech companies could do to show their goodwill, suggested Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of youth-led coalition Design It For Us, is to “get their trade organizations to back off” from lobbying against the bills. Of the witnesses, only Snap broke ranks before the hearing from peers and its own trade group NetChoice by endorsing KOSA. During the hearing, X CEO Linda Yaccarino also offered her support for the bill. Microsoft, which was not summoned to the hearing, endorsed KOSA the day before.

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1 big thing: Senate CEO hearing looks backwards

“Someone as powerful as her, someone as strong as her, was impacted by Big Tech’s negligence,” Arielle Geismar, a team member of Design It For Us, said at a press conference by the activist group after the hearing. “As a young woman, I am horrified by the potential this could happen to me.”

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Meta, TikTok and other social media CEOs testify in Senate hearing on child exploitation

“When you’re faced with really important safety and privacy decisions, the revenue in the bottom line should not be the first factor that these companies are considering,” said Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of Design It For Us, a youth-led coalition advocating for safer social media. “These companies have had opportunities to do this before they failed to do that. So independent regulation needs to step in.”

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Accusations, tears and rants: 5 takeaways from today’s tech CEO hearing

Sen. Marsha Blackburn confronted Zuckerberg on internal Meta documents suggesting that the company estimates the lifetime value of a teen user at $270. “How could you possibly even have that thought? It is astounding to me,” Blackburn said, before recognizing a group of youth advocates in the audience and inviting them to stand.

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Zuckerberg apologized to parents — and other key moments — from a Senate hearing on online child safety

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee also went after Zuckerberg about an internal Meta document that placed a lifetime value to the company of a young user at $270. “How could you possibly even have that thought? It is astounding to me,” Blackburn said. She then invited members of the gallery to stand who wore T-shirts that read “I am worth more than $270.”

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Mark Zuckerberg and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel apologize to families of online harm victims at Senate hearing – as it happened

In her line of questioning, Senator Marsha Blackburn cited an internal email at Meta revealed as part of a lawsuit from US attorneys general that stated product teams that referred to younger users in terms of their lifetime value of being “roughly $270 per teenager”. She acknowledge teenagers in the crowd for the hearing wearing shirts that read “I’m worth more than $270,” which elicited applause from the crowd.

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Youth advocates wear ‘I’m worth more than $270’ T-shirts

Youth activists from across the country attended Wednesday’s hearing, donning T-shirts reading, “I’m worth more than $270.” The shirt is a reference to a lawsuit that 41 state attorneys general brought against Meta, claiming its products are addictive for teens. An unredacted version of that lawsuit includes an internal company email that said, “The lifetime value of a 13 y/o teen is roughly $270.”

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“I’m worth more than $270.”

Young advocates stood in the back of the hearing room with shirts that read “I’m worth more than $270” — part of the overall outsized crowd presence at this event. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) pointed to this group as she referenced the new set of internal Meta emails she and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released. In the internal documents, Blackburn said, Meta executives described the lifetime value of teens on their services being roughy $270 each.

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Tech execs prepare to defend child-safety records

Accountable Tech and Design it for Us will hold a rally outside the Capitol following the hearing. Design it for Us is more focused on the harms it says are posed by Meta, Snap and TikTok. But it added in a statement, “That certainly doesn’t excuse Discord and X.”

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Meta, TikTok and other social media CEOs to testify before Senate committee on child exploitation

“We understand that they are companies and they have to make profit. But when you’re faced with really important safety and privacy decisions, the revenue in the bottom line should not be the first factor that these companies are considering,” said Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of Design It For Us, a youth-led coalition advocating for safer social media. “These companies have had opportunities to do this before they failed to do that. So independent regulation needs to step in.”

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Meta, X, Tiktok Face Senators’ Scrutiny Over Kids’ Online Safety

“We’ve been on this merry-go-round before, where we put forward and present new pieces of legislation, where we work with the lawmakers to make sure that it’s in the best possible place it can be, and then the lobbyists come in and try and kill it,” said Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of youth online safety organization Design It For Us.

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What this week’s Senate hearing with Big Tech execs means for the future of children’s online safety laws

Qureshi is one of several young people trying to tackle the problem head on. He’s the cochair of Design It For Us, a coalition of organizations advocating for laws to make the internet and social media safer. The group has met with lawmakers including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

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Protecting Children Online — Questions for Five Big Tech CEOs

On January 31, 2024, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on online child sexual exploitation with CEOs from Meta, X, TikTok, Snap, and Discord. In advance of the hearing, Issue One and Tech Policy Press organized a virtual forum with a group of independent researchers, advocates, and representatives from child and online safety groups — most of them members of Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media (CRSM) — to discuss potential questions for lawmakers to pose to the CEOs. 

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NTIA takes on kids’ online safety

Design It for Us, which comprises activists from 18 to 26 years old, told Axios it worked with young people in the group and outside content creators to craft submissions. The group is calling on the government to require platforms to incorporate safety into their product designs by default, address “surveillance” advertising, make platforms deprioritize algorithms that addict users, and give users control of their personal information.

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Big Tech May Have Met Its Match in Gen Z

They are armed with data to support why we need such laws, including the 60% surge in teen suicides and Gen Z’s rampant battle with anxiety and depression. Zamaan Qureshi, an American University senior and co-founder of Design It For Us, describes it as “a mental health emergency largely driven by the addictive design of social media.”

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State Attorneys General Sue Meta Over Harms to Children and Teens

Design It For Us, which describes itself as a coalition of young people taking on Big Tech, issued a statement condemning Meta for “profiting off of our safety and well-being by purposefully designing products that keep us addicted.” This, according to youth leader Thanasi Dilos, is a major contributor to the mental health epidemic among young people. They similarly condemned the social media giant for funding NetChoice rather than collaborating with advocates on legislation and guidelines.

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Illinois Senate hearing on social media’s impact on children

Among the panelists are Matthew Bergman, Founding Attorney of Social Media Victims Law Center, Zamaan Qureshi, Co-Chair of Design it for Us, Camille Carlton, Senior Policy & Communications Manager for Center for Humane Technology and Robert Weil, Director of Research, Policy, and Field Services, Educational Issues for American Federation of Teachers. 

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Long sidelined, youth activists demand a say in online safety debate

Qureshi and a coalition of students formed Design It For Us, an advocacy group intended to bring the perspectives of young people to the forefront of the debate about online safety. They are part of a growing constellation of youth advocacy and activist organizations demanding a say as officials consider new rules to govern kids’ activity online.

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Local university students chosen as award recipients for Prince Harry and Meghan’s nonprofit charity organization

Emma Lembke says it was a major surprise that her tech reform work earned a phone call from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.

“I had one of the craziest surprise calls of my life with the Duke and Duchess,” Lembke said creator of Design It for Us. “Harry and Meghan called me to say that I was a grant recipient of the Responsible Youth Tech Fund, that is awarding over $2 million to youth groups who are seeking to better understand for a greater tech future.” 

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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Reveal Why Archie and Lilibet Will Be ‘Grateful’ in New Video

The snippet showed Prince Harry, 38, and Meghan, 41, connecting with Tazin Khan Norelius of Cyber Collective, Trisha Prabhu of ReThink Citizens, Emma Lembke of Design It For Us and Log Off, Sam Hiner of the Young People’s Alliance Education Fund and Sneha Revanur of Encode Justice. They thanked the young leaders for driving change that will benefit the next generation — including their son Archie, 4, and daughter Lilibet, 2.

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Harry and Meghan Announce the Winners of $2 Million in Grants For Responsible Tech

“It was a complete surprise. I had no idea I would be speaking with them,” Emma Lembke, the cochair of internet safety advocacy organization Design It For Us, told Vanity Fair. “The duke and the duchess, and all of their work, have been pivotal in moving so many social issues forward and bringing visibility to a lot of important areas, and specifically responsible tech.”

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Children’s online safety bills clear Senate hurdle despite strong civil liberties pushback

President Biden backed the legislation during an address on mental health on Tuesday, urging the Senate to “pass it, pass it, pass it, pass it, pass it.” Biden previously called for legislation protecting children online in his State of the Union address. The bills have garnered the support of a number of children’s safety groups including FairPlay, Design it For Us and Common Sense Media.

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Controversial legislation to protect children on social media advances in Senate

The bill has a multitude of co-sponsors as well as the support of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Joe Biden. Schumer’s staff told the youth advocacy group Design It For Us that the Kids Online Safety Act was “still very much a priority,” according to Axios. Biden also voiced support for legislation protecting children on Wednesday.

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The path forward for kids’ online safety

Design it for Us Coalition co-chair Zamaan Qureshi said Schumer’s staff told his group passing kids’ online protections was “still very much a priority” during a July 19 meeting. Schumer’s office did not respond to inquiries about whether getting a kids’ online safety package remained a priority.

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Young People Lobby Congress for More Online Protections

Design It For Us, a coalition of youth-led organizations that advocates for online protection for youth and young adults, created its installation of white yard signs to call for the passage of the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act. 

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Measures needed to enhance online safety

Recognizing the personal significance of these issues, I co-founded a youth-led coalition called Design It For Us, to advocate for safer online platforms. We aim to achieve policy reforms that protect kids, teens and young adults online, engaging with lawmakers and regulators to hold Big Tech accountable. This is personal for my generation.

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Youth online safety bills win passage in 3 more states

“It’s on Big Tech to protect young people by ensuring our privacy is of utmost importance by designing their products with our input, not handing over control to parents to infringe on kids’ right to privacy,” said Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of Design It For Us, a youth-led campaign that supports California-style design code legislation, in a statement.

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Teen Data Safeguards Floated in Kids’ Privacy Law Proposal

The bills from Markey, Cassidy, Blumenthal, and Blackburn also got backing from Design It For Us, a coalition of young activists and organizations advocating for safer social media and online platforms. The group applauded the legislation’s focus on regulating how tech companies design their products, rather than leaving it up to kids or parents to mitigate risks.

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Bipartisan pair of lawmakers push to protect children online

“Right now, the burden of safety on social media and online platforms falls squarely on me on my peers, and on parents. And when, not if, we are faced with harmful content or interactions online, there are a few places to turn,” said Zamaan Qureshi, youth advocate and co-chair of Design It For Us, self-described as a “coalition of young activists and organizations advocating for safer social media and online platforms for kids, teens and young adults.”

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Online Kids Safety Act Introduced

Emma Lembke, a youth activist and Co-Chair, Design It for Us said, “As I spent more time online, I saw a direct correlation between my deterioration of my mental and physical health as I continued to scroll.”

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Bipartisan pair of lawmakers push to protect children online

“Right now, the burden of safety on social media and online platforms falls squarely on me on my peers, and on parents. And when, not if, we are faced with harmful content or interactions online, there are a few places to turn,” said Zamaan Qureshi, youth advocate and co-chair of Design It For Us, self-described as a “coalition of young activists and organizations advocating for safer social media and online platforms for kids, teens and young adults.”

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Meet the Greta Thunberg of AI

Earlier today, a consortium of 10 youth organizations sent a letter to congressional leaders and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy calling on them to include more young people on AI oversight and advisory boards. The letter, provided first to DFD, was spearheaded by Sneha Revanur, a first-year student at Williams College in Massachusetts and the founder of Encode Justice, an AI-focused civil society group.

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More Backing for Tech Law

Other signers-on to today’s briefs include: former California Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), the co-author of the California AADC; Tech reform organizations Fairplay, Common Sense Media and Center for Humane Technology; youth-led advocacy groups like Civics Unplugged and Design It For Us; Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen; and former U.S. Reps. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.).

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Keeping Tabs on Kids’ Privacy

One youth-led coalition that’s been involved in the kids’ online safety debate, Design It For Us, said the mandatory age verification bill from Schatz and others “misses the mark.”

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Lawmakers, parents clash over social media age requirement

Youth-led coalition Design it For Us released a statement saying in part, “We believe that any legislation addressing harm on social media should put the onus on companies to make their platforms safer, instead of preventing kids and teens from being on platforms at all.”

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Students lobby for online protections in Annapolis

“To us, that means having control of what happens online,” George Washington University student Arielle Geismar said. “Currently, large tech companies are using our data. They’re tracking young people. And, they’re using the materials we have and what we do on social media for their own profit.”

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Newsom signs bill to make tech companies protect kids online

Another campaign led by youth advocates, the Design It For Us campaign, has been rallying around the bill’s passage for the past few months, taking out a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times and sending a billboard-covered truck to legislators at a tech summit in Napa.

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Young Advocates for the California Age-Appropriate Design Code

The Design It For Us campaign stemmed from this desire to include youth in the coalition and I’ve just found this work to be so invigorating. As young people, we can’t come to the solution by ourselves. And as the older generation, we can’t come to the solution by ourselves.

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