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By By Diana Martinez | Editor, San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol

Emi Kim was the target of online hate and bullying growing up in school.

At a news conference, Kim stood alongside California Assemblymembers Jesse Gabriel and Buffy Wicks to support recent legislation to address "hate online."

She described the torment she experienced on a daily basis that began when she was in sixth grade.

“I'm 18 now, [but] I grew up with a phone in my hand. I got my first phone in 6th grade, and downloaded Instagram soon after and found that my classmates were taking pictures of me in the hallway and posting them online and continually calling me 'fat'. They said that when I smiled my eyes looked like macaroons and when I ate a macaroon for lunch that I was a cannibal."

Kim is now part of the "Log Off" movement and the director of its legislative efforts. The youth organization has been created by teenagers for teenagers to promote the best and safest use of social networks.

“I am here to fight for what is right,” Kim said. “If you had told the 13-year-old that I would be here as a leader in this movement, I would have laughed in your face. People on social media and these platforms had convinced me that I would be nothing more than a 'fat girl'. This came with a lot of struggle and it is still a struggle that I come with today, ”he explained.

Kim announced, “I am here to prove that I am not just a 'fat girl,' but that I am a smart woman and a powerful woman who deserves respect, and my 'Asianess' is not an excuse to put aside my achievements.”

Kim has been a supporter of new legislation that was recently passed and is expected to require more transparency about the source of information and place more guardrails on social media.

He called on adults to “do the right thing”, Ignoring the negative impact and hate-based bullying that is criticized through social media can have serious consequences.

“I get emails and messages every day from another teen somewhere saying that social media is the main reason they want to kill themselves. You shouldn't let kids be on a platform that makes them want to kill themselves. Social media was not designed for children, it was designed for adults," Kim said.

“Safety measures have been around everything kids touch except social media,” Kim noted, “You don't let your kid ride a bike without a helmet, you don't let a baby into a kitchen without locks. cabinet, you should not allow your children on social media platforms that lead them to want to commit suicide. There are security perimeters in everything that children touch, except in social networks”.

Until now.

The passage of this set of new legislation is expected to change the climate online.

“I want to tell children that you and your voice are always more valuable than another person on social media. I'm here for you". Kim said.

In addition to children, the most vulnerable communities, including women, people of color, religious minorities, including members of the Jewish community, and immigrants, have been victims of online hate.

A recent study, conducted by the Anti-Defamation League, indicated a dramatic increase in Asian-American bullying that has been correlated with the rise in anti-Asian hate incidents. They also found that LGBTQ+ people experience bullying at the highest levels among all respondents, with nearly half of 13-17 year olds experiencing some form of online bullying.

Linda Ng, national president of Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national civil rights organization, said she was not surprised by the results of the ADL study because the Asian community "lives it every day."

“We are tired of the lack of regulations and hate enforcement on the big social media platforms. Eight out of ten Asian Americans in an 'AAPI Stop the Hate Report' reported being bullied or verbally harassed,” Ng said.

Growing verbal harassment and hate expressed against the Asian community, Ng said, “We already knew that when Asian Pacific Islander women (AAPIs) are sent sexually harassing messages through networking sites social, we are told to go back to our communities as chattel, we are told that Covid-19 is an 'Asian disease', and we are told that every day. Our community continues to live in fear and it is important to hold social media companies accountable. We are tired of it, we don't want words, we want action,” Ng said.

Two Social Media Bills are Signed by the Governor

After a two-year battle and fierce Big Tech opposition, Assemblymembers Jesse Gabriel, Buffy Wicks and Jordan Cunningham successfully got two bills written through the legislature and signed by the Governor this month. AB 587, the Social Media Transparency and Accountability Act, (Gabriel), and AB 2273, the Age Appropriate Design Code, (Wicks, Cunningham)

Gabriel's Assembly Bill 587 will require more transparency and accountability from social media companies that require social media platforms to publicly disclose their policies involving disinformation, online hate, extremism, and harassment.

According to Gabriel and supporters of the bill, this legislation “will bring much-needed transparency and accountability to the role of social media in amplifying extreme and dangerous content and generating serious political polarization.”

“Social media has created some incredible opportunities, but also real threats and challenges, particularly when it comes to protecting our children and our democracy,” said Gabriel.

“For the first time, this bill would require major social media companies to publicly disclose their content moderation policies and report key data on how they enforce those policies and be honest when they amplify certain voices and silence others,” said Gabriel, who argued that there is little doubt that social media platforms have spread hate.

A 2016 internal report from Facebook found that 64 percent of people who joined an extremist group on Facebook did so only because the company's own algorithms told them to, and the consequences couldn't be clearer.

"Consider the mass shootings we've had in this country," Gabriel said. Numerous studies have linked hate violence, mass shootings and online activity, he said. "They were radicalized through a toxic concoction of white supremacy and extremist ideology…social media has become fuel for hate."

Assemblyman Gabriel also noted that in addition to the spread of hate speech, there have been the consequences of extreme political polarization online, including disinformation and misinformation about Covid-19, which he said has contributed greatly to hesitation. of vaccinations and refusal to be vaccinated.

“It's about time tech companies provide real transparency about how they're shaping our public discourse. The public and policymakers deserve to know when social media companies are amplifying certain voices and silencing others."

Gabriel called the legislation an important step in a broader effort to "protect our vulnerable communities and hold Big Tech accountable."

Children's data protection

Wick and Cunningham Assembly Bill AB 2273 prohibits companies that provide online services, products or features accessible to children from using a child's personal information; collect, sell or retain the geolocation of a child; profile a child by default; and guiding or encouraging children to provide personal information.

He said the safeguards are already in place in the UK, where they have already passed the design code.

“[In the UK] YouTube has disabled autoplay for children under 18 and Google has made safe search its default browsing mode for those under 18, Tic Toc and Instagram have disabled direct messaging between children and adults who do not follow, Tic Toc does not send notifications beyond a certain time. A lot of these things may sound like small things, but they are big things for the ecosystems our children live in,” Wick said.

"Children have been bombarded with inappropriate information online and still don't have the ability to understand all the information that comes their way, so we want to make sure that when these products are created, they are by design and safe for our children."

“I am very happy for our children that the Governor has signed AB 2273, which requires that online platforms accessible to children be designed according to age,” echoed Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, noting that “there are predators out there and they use these tools to try to reach children and it's not right,” he said.

“With this law, California is leading the nation in creating a new online experience that is safe for children. We still have more work to do to address the youth mental health crisis."

“In particular, we know that certain Big Tech social media companies design their products for addicted children, and a significant number of those children suffer serious harm as a result…including depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and eating disorders. Protecting children online is not only common sense, it will also save lives.”

The Children's Data Protection Task Force will be established as part of the California Age Appropriate Design Code Act to report to the Legislature, by January 2024, on best practices for implementation.

Legislators delivered a unified message: “Children and communities deserve to be safe. California is the home of the digital world and with this bipartisan legislation, it is our hope, California will lead the way."

"As California moves forward, so does the nation," Wick said.

This article was originally published by The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol.

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