Believe it or not, the US president’s State of the Union address rarely pings Music Ally’s news radar. But some of President Biden’s remarks in his speech yesterday have relevance to our industry, and some of the biggest tech platforms around it.
In a section talking about children’s mental health, Biden referred to “the harms of social media” and referred to the recent revelations of Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen as he signified plans for a crackdown.
“As Frances Haugen, who is here with us tonight, has shown, we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit. It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”
The crackdown? That’s detailed here. “By one estimate, online advertising firms hold 72 million data points on the average child by the time they reach the age of 13. The President is calling on Congress to ban excessive data collection on and targeted advertising online for children and young people,” it explains.
There’s more. “The President believes not only that we should have far stronger protections for children’s data and privacy, but that the platforms and other interactive digital service providers should be required to prioritise and ensure the health, safety and well-being of children and young people above profit and revenue in the design of their products and services.”
It’s putting platforms from TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram to YouTube and Roblox on notice. Not that they need a warning: Biden’s remarks and the US administration’s plans are part of a bigger, global trend in the attitudes of regulators and politicians towards digital services, children, privacy and potentially-harmful content.
Over the last year there has been a series of announcements by big internet services about new safety measures and policies for kids, invariably presented as ‘right thing to do’ voluntary actions, although in most cases, very much prompted by the stick of one regulator or another’s incoming rules.
Still, the US moves are significant, and may spur further changes to many of the digital platforms that have become important and exciting new frontiers for the music industry in recent years. Especially those, like TikTok, where it’s the younger users (including children) who have driven much of the creation and consumption culture.
Meanwhile, the Biden-Harris’ administration’s plans to crack down on excessive data collection and targeted ads for children will also be relevant to the worlds of music streaming and podcasting.
As ever, new legislation or regulation will include intense behind-the-scenes lobbying (and in-front-of-the-scenes arguments and compromises between politicians) so we – and all the services mentioned above – will await the actual US measures with interest.