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‘I’m All In’

Cantwell to Seek Hotline Passage for Kids’ Privacy Bills

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told us Thursday she will try to hotline kids privacy legislation in the Senate.

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Hotlining is a process in which a senator can seek expedited passage through unanimous consent. A single senator can block UC. If the senator seeking the hotline requests UC on the floor, any objections would have to be made publicly.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed by voice vote in July the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) (S-1409) and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (S-1418) (see 2307270058). Cantwell will try to hotline both. “We hope to get them out of the Senate,” she said Thursday. “We tried last year right before the end of the year. We’re going to try again." It’s a question of whether any members will object, she said, "and if they do, then we need to do what we need to do to resolve those objections.”

Her office said in a statement Thursday: “It’s always busy as we come to the end of the year, and we will be working to determine the appropriate opportunity” to initiate the process.

KOSA’s lead Democratic sponsor, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, told us Thursday that he's “in favor of any approach that gets a vote.” He said he hasn’t witnessed any formal opposition to KOSA in the Senate, noting the bill has nearly 50 co-sponsors. Hotlining KOSA would “smoke out any potential opposition” if Cantwell goes to the floor, he said. “Then the opponent would have to come to the floor. If she does, I’m all in. She’s been a leader on it all along.”

Cantwell appeared for a news conference Wednesday with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and his AI working group following the latest AI Insight Forum sessions (see 2311080063). Cantwell told reporters she’s focused on passing kids’ privacy legislation before turning attention to a comprehensive privacy bill.

Schumer on the floor Thursday said Congress needs to act to protect the security and integrity of U.S. elections. He credited Meta, Microsoft and Google for voicing support for Congress to implement “guardrails” for AI technology. Because of the 2024 presidential election, election security is “an area where we’ll pay special attention to earlier, rather than later,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., on Thursday. “There’s no disagreement in terms of the need for early assurance of election security.”

Schumer’s group has discussed the possibility of requiring tech companies to adhere to a “duty of care” when deploying AI technology. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, who has advocated for a duty of care in privacy legislation, told us Thursday: “It’s going to be very hard to write a law that prohibits all the bad stuff because you would have to anticipate all of it. So duty of care is a clean way to handle this, and the idea has momentum because it’s a good one.”