Big Tech asked to support child safety legislation in child sexual exploitation hearing | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Several CEOs of social media companies spoke at the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon during the hearing on “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, Jason Citron, CEO of Discord, Shou Chew, CEO of TikTok, Linda Vaccarino, CEO of X, and Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, all appeared before lawmakers during the at-times contentious hearing.

During the hearing, Utah Sen. Mike Lee cited a study that referenced child sexual abuse material that “reappeared more than 490,000 times after it had been reported.”

Addressing Citron, Lee explained, “Discord allows pornography on its site,” and he added that 17% of minors on Discord reported to “have had sexual interactions” on the platform. A majority of those minors said they believed those interactions were with an adult.

“We need laws to mandate this” and to create a systematic way of getting rid of it, “because there is literally no possible justification, no way of defending this,” Lee said.

Lee also referenced a new bill he is sponsoring that requires age verification for “all participants in pornographic images.”

As acting chair of the committee, Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said five recent bipartisan bills failed to become law because of a lack of support from Big Tech companies. He added the Communications Decency Act of 1996 “immunized” tech companies from liability for content users create.

While the bills have bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate, each tech CEO said they did not support the bills.

CEOs give shocking statistics

Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., ranking member on the committee, addressed the Facebook founder. “Mr. Zuckerberg, I know you don’t mean it, but you’ve got blood on your hands,” he said, to cheers in the hearing room.

In 2023, Snapchat made “690,000 reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children leading to more than 1,000 arrests,” Spiegel said. He added, “We also removed 2.2 million pieces of drug related content, and blocked 705,000 associated accounts.”

In the same time frame, Vaccarino explained, “X suspended 12.4 million accounts for violating our CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation) policies.” She compared 2023’s action to the 2.3 million accounts removed in 2022.

Addressing Zuckerberg, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., referenced data collected on teenage girls between the ages of 13 and 15 from a whistleblower who had previously worked as a senior executive at Instagram.

“Thirty-seven percent said they had been exposed to nudity unwanted within the past seven days,” Hawley explained. He added, “Twenty-four percent said they had experienced unwanted sexual advances that had been propositioned within the last seven days. Seventeen percent said they had experienced self-harm content pushed at them in the last seven days.”

Zuckerberg apologizes to families of victims of sexual exploitation

Hawley asked Zuckerberg if he had apologized to the families of victims of sexual exploitation. He added, “Would you like to do so now?”

Zuckerberg then stood, turned around and addressed some of the families of victims in the Senate hearing room.

“I’m sorry for everything that you’ve all been through,” Zuckerberg said. “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered. And this is why we invested so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer.”

Lindsey Graham asked tech CEOs to ‘defend your practices open at the courthouse door’

Graham asked each tech CEO if they supported five bipartisan bills, including the Earn It Act, the Stop CSAM Act, the Shield Act, the Invest in Child Safety Act and the Report Act. The CEOs said they opposed the bills.

“The reason the Earn It Act is important is that you can actually lose your liability protections when children are exploited, and you didn’t use best business practices,” Graham said, adding, “The Earn It Act means you have to earn liability protections. (Right now) you’re given it no matter what you do.”

Graham continued, “Stand by your product. Defend your practices open at the courthouse door. Until you do that, nothing will change. Until these people can be sued for the damage they are doing, it is all talk.”

“I’m a Republican who believes in free enterprise, but I also believe there is no commission to go to that can punish you,” he added. “There is not one law in the book because you oppose everything we do, and that has to stop.”

Sen. Hawley tells TikTok CEO the platform is ‘an espionage arm’ for the CCP

Chew said TikTok has over 1 billion users worldwide, of which 170 million are American.

To Chew, Hawley referenced audio leaked from over 80 internal TikTok meetings. He said, “China-based employees of your company have repeatedly accessed non-public data of United States citizens. Your company has tracked journalists, improperly gaining access to their IP addresses and user data in attempt to identify whether they’re writing negative stories about you.”

He asked, “Why should your company not be banned in the United States of America?” 

Chew said Hawley’s claims were false.

Similarly, Durbin asked Chew, “Why is it that TikTok is allowing children to be exploited into performing commercialized sex acts?” 

“I respectfully disagree with that characterization,” Chew responded. “Our live-streaming product is not for anyone below the age of 18. We have taken action to identify anyone who violates that and remove them from using that service.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also compared content on the Chinese version of TikTok with American TikTok, saying the content for Chinese children focused on education and had built in time limits while “in the United States you are promoting to kids self-harm videos and anti-Israel propaganda.” He added, “Why is there such a dramatic difference?” 

Chew denied there were differences.

Cruz asks Zuckerberg about images of child sexual abuse

Cruz referenced a poster board displaying a screenshot from Instagram with the warning screen, “These results may contain images of child sexual abuse.” Two options appeared beneath the warning. The first said, “Get resources,” and the second said, “See anyway.”

“Mr. Zuckerberg, what the (expletive) were you thinking?” Cruz asked.

Zuckerberg explained how it’s beneficial for people searching for illicit material to be directed “to something that could be helpful for getting them to get help.” 

Cruz interrupted, “In what sane universe is there a link for ‘see results anyway?’”

Zuckerberg responded, “Well, because we might be wrong.” 

Cruz asked, “How many times was this warning screen displayed?” to which Zuckerberg said he didn’t know.

The senator asked, “Why don’t you know?” and continued, asking Zuckerberg for data within five days on how many times the screen was displayed, and how many times the second option was clicked.

“What follow-up did Instagram do when you have a potential pedophile clicking on, ‘I’d like to see child porn,’ what did you do next when that happened?” Cruz asked.

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