Crowell attorneys attended the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) Policy Conference in Seattle, Washington on February 14 & 15. As usual, the conference included multiple receptions and other networking events allowing the four Crowell attorneys in attendance to engage with multiple attorneys general and a host of their respective staff members. The Seattle policy conference included a session titled Safeguarding Vulnerable Populations in a Digital Age. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, District of Columbia, moderated the panel of three speakers: Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, Oregon; Jacqueline Beauchere, Global Head of Platform Safety, SNAP; and Dr. Katie Davis, Associate Professor and Director of the Digital Youth Lab at the University of Washington. Below please find some key takeaways:

  • Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum began her term as President of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in January 2024. Each year the NAAG president identifies a Presidential Initiative and General Rosenblum has selected America's Youth: AGs Looking out for the Next Generation. One focus of the America's Youth initiative will be technology and technological effects on children's lives.
  • Attorneys general are considering a variety of technology-related concerns affecting young people including sexploitation of minors and mental health concerns, such as depression and anxiety.
  • Attorneys general offices have authority to enforce the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA). Many attorneys general engaged with the FTC's most recent request for public comment on proposed revisions to COPPA and submitted comments in early 2024 based on their experiences and findings related to COPPA enforcement. A key concern for attorneys general is COPPA's age restriction, in that COPPA does not apply to children over the age of thirteen.
  • Beyond COPPA, each state has unfair or deceptive acts or practices statutes (UDAP), which may also be utilized to pursue enforcement against companies using deceptive business practices in digital forms. The attorneys general specifically called out enforcement opportunities against social media companies.
  • Some states have additional laws to address businesses' technological practices. For example, Oregon has Oregon Student Information Protection Act to address educational technology that collects student information and limits student data collection to education purposes (as opposed to the sale of data for advertising purposes).
  • Social media industry panelist, Jacqueline Beauchere, asserted that companies are unable to control all outcomes for children and thus parent involvement is key. Some social media platforms offer parental controls, special security features, and other involvement options, such as Snapchat's 'family center.' But, these security features are not consistent across platforms and the social media industry regularly experiences market entrants who employ varying levels of safeguards and security policies.
  • Attorneys general indicated a desire to partner with willing technological companies, similar to partnerships between technological companies and social science researchers. For example, Meta partnered with Center for Open Science to provide anonymous data to researchers. The panel also discussed that the United Kingdom has compelled companies to produce data, in some instances, for investigations and social science research.
  • The social media business model utilizes advertising data that is fueled by engagement, with minimal concern for user well-being. Therefore, a key concern for attorneys general is to craft injunctive remedies that limit potentially addictive or biased algorithms and lack of safeguards. The panelists discussed formulating models designed to encourage well-being and simple mutual connection.
  • Attorneys general also want social media platforms to have 'opt-in' policies for minors as opposed to 'opt-out' policies, which they believe will create an additional safeguard. A key piece of security information is who children are connecting with through social media applications, as connections with unknown or anonymous individuals on social media applications is a primary risk factor for young people. Social media companies are criticized for a focus on features and metrics that are designed to create peer competition, which the critics believe can only lead to negative stigma and poor mental health outcomes for children who use the platforms.
  • Children are not the only population vulnerable to deceptive technological businesses. Attorneys general also are focused on scams facilitated through social media companies that are designed to deceive elderly and vulnerable citizens.

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