Carter voices support for Sammy’s Law

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) on Dec. 5 advocated for a bipartisan child safety bill he cosponsored in the fall that would ensure large third-party safety software providers have skin in the game to help protect children online.  

“Parents have the right to know when their child is engaging in dangerous online activity,” Rep. Carter said. “There are sick, evil people who will prey on our youth to make a quick buck by selling illicit, sometimes fentanyl-laced drugs.”

The congressman in September signed on as the lead original cosponsor of Sammy’s Law of 2023, H.R. 5778, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), to help parents be better informed about a child’s interactions on social media and to fill in critical access and awareness gaps when children face problems on popular platforms, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers. 

“This bill is bipartisan for a reason,” said Rep. Carter during a press conference on Tuesday to promote the bill. “That’s because this issue doesn’t impact one party or another; it impacts all of us. We can’t be irresponsible, and we’re going to address this problem.”

H.R. 5778 is named after Sammy Chapman, 16, who on Feb. 7, 2021, was contacted on social media by a drug dealer who delivered drugs to the high school student at his home. Chapman died that same day from a fentanyl overdose.

One of the most effective ways for parents to protect children is by using third-party safety apps, the lawmakers said during the press conference, noting that such apps can provide alerts to parents when dangerous content is shared through children’s social media accounts, enabling life-saving interventions at critical moments. 

For example, if a child is expressing thoughts of suicide via social media, a parent who has received an alert through a third-party safety app can immediately provide mental health support and, if necessary, seek professional assistance, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Carter’s staff.

If enacted, H.R. 5778 would require large social media platforms with either 100 million monthly active users or that garner $1 billion in gross revenue per year adjusted for inflation to make real-time application programming interfaces accessible to FTC-registered third-party safety software providers, the summary says. 

Parents then would be alerted when 15 specific instances arise, including phrases that suggest eating disorders, suicidal ideation, and sexual harassment, states the summary.

“Look, we’re not trying to spy on anyone here — we’re not trying to invade anyone’s privacy. What we’re trying to do is save our children and give parents a tool in the tool chest for using these apps,” Rep. Carter said on Tuesday. “If the bill saves one life, it’s worth it.”

H.R. 5778 currently has seven cosponsors, including three who signed on Nov. 29, Dec. 4, and Dec. 6, and is under consideration in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Sammy’s life was worth living and this bill will help parents get the information they need to keep their children safe,” said Rep. Carter.

The Organization for Social Media Safety endorsed the measure.