RELEASE: New Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Combat Crime & Drug Deals Harming Kids on Social Media Apps

Bipartisan Action to Hold TikTok, China Accountable for Stealing U.S. Data, Combat National Security Threats. New “Stop Preying on Kids Strategy.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, July 21, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced a new “Stop Preying on Kids Strategy,” including bipartisan action to combat national security threats from TikTok and China stealing Americans’ data, as well as introducing bipartisan legislation — the Combating Harmful Actions with Transparency on Social Act (CHATS Act) — to tackle crime stemming from social media and to boost transparency and accountability of social media companies. Many crimes on social media go untracked, and this bill will provide crucial insights. 

Gottheimer was joined today to announce this new bipartisan action by CHATS Act co-lead Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Organization for Social Media Safety CEO Marc Berkman, and Dr. Laura Berman and Samuel Chapman, the parents of Sammy Chapman, a 16-year-old who died from an overdose in his bedroom after buying fentanyl-laced Xanax from a drug dealer on Snapchat. 

The bipartisan Combating Harmful Actions with Transparency on Social Act (CHATS Act) will:

  • Direct the FBI, using its crime reporting program, and Justice Department to collect and report on data on crimes involving social media. 
  • Establish data collection guidelines, so that when local law enforcement files a police report, they would check a box stating whether a social media platform is suspected to have been involved in the crime and list which platform was involved.
  • Directs the Attorney General to publish an annual statistical report detailing which internet platforms are connected to which crimes, so we understand where and how these social crimes are taking place against our children. Additionally, this data will pay special attention to offenses committed against or by children, allowing us to better understand the role of social media in crime and its impacts on children.

Gottheimer’s bipartisan CHATS Act is cosponsored by Reps. Brain Fitzpatrick (PA-1), Don Bacon (NE-02), André Carson (IN-07), Jim Costa (CA-16), Dave Joyce (OH-14), and Jimmy Panetta (CA-20). The CHATS Act has the support of the National Fraternal Order of Police. 

Find the full bill text here.

Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick also wrote to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to raise concerns over the use of TikTok by minors, as well as potential national security risks to the United States. Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick asked TikTok for information regarding current compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), parental controls, user data collected from minors and adults, consumer privacy, and data sharing with the governments of foreign nations, like the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Read the bipartisan letter to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew here.

Watch today’s announcement here.

“The lack of transparency and accountability for these companies has led to grave consequences for our families and our country. We know that the popular Chinese social media company, TikTok, has access to our kids’ and to Americans’ data — posing a serious threat to our safety, privacy, and national security. Because of apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, drug dealers across the country have unfettered direct access to sell deadly drugs to our kids, all while remaining anonymous — which is exactly what happened to Sammy,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Social media platforms allow for drugs to be ordered on demand like Amazon Prime or a pizza delivery. Kids don’t even have to leave their neighborhoods, let alone their houses. We need change now, which is why Brian and I are introducing the bipartisan CHATS Act. These are concrete steps we can take to hold social media companies accountable, to combat the dangers to our children, and to finally boost transparency into which social media apps — whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok — are being used for which crimes.”

“The CHATS Act will put data towards one of our society's biggest problems. It will help law enforcement, legislators and social media executives alike understand the problem better so that they can craft solutions to save our children's lives,” said Dr. Laura Berman, the mother of Sammy Chapman, a 16-year-old who died from an overdose after buying fentanyl-laced Xanax from a drug dealer on Snapchat.

“Consumers, especially children, are regularly harmed from social media use, some even fatally, and the CHATS Act will provide urgently needed transparency for the public and policymakers to better understand the risks,” said Marc Berkman, CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety. “Currently, our national crime statistics include physical addresses, but because crimes are now committed in the digital world of social media, the law needs to keep pace so we can protect our families from dangers like trafficking, drugs, and sexual predation. The Organization for Social Media Safety is very grateful for the efforts of Reps. Gottheimer and Fitzpatrick in taking the lead on this important legislation.”

“We need to do more to protect our children from the risks posed by social media,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1). “As the opioid and mental health crisis rages on, it is critical that we develop new guidelines and additional reporting mechanisms to determine if social media has played a role in countless tragedies. The CHATS Act will update how we report on dangerous crimes so that we can focus on prevention, and I am proud to work with Congressman Gottheimer on this legislation that will improve the lives and safety of our kids.”

“As more illicit and illegal transactions take place on social media platforms, our local and federal law enforcement agencies are unfortunately in the dark on how widespread this problem has become,” said Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20). “Our bipartisan legislation would provide law enforcement with anonymized data detailing which social media platforms are connected to which crimes so that we can better understand the nexus of illegal activity and internet communications. Studying this data can help law enforcement prevent and mitigate against crimes that disproportionately impact our young people, saving lives and promising futures.”

“Counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl are killing our kids,” said Rep. Dave Joyce (OH-14). “This legislation will give law enforcement the information they need to understand how criminals are using social media platforms to sell these lethal drugs and prevent tragic overdose deaths. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important, bipartisan bill. We can’t allow these criminals to continue to break apart families and threaten the safety of our communities.”

"This bill is an important step to help stem the flow of illegal drugs to kids. Getting the facts is critical to fighting online drug peddlers and others who seek to commit crimes against children. I'm proud to join my colleagues in introducing a bill that adds one more tool to help keep our children safe,” said Rep. André Carson (IN-07).

“This legislation will greatly support our law enforcement when trying to identify how social media has been used in the commitment of a crime and how to combat that,” said Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02). “I’m thankful to Rep. Gottheimer for introducing this bipartisan legislation.”

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