The chief executives of the nation’s top social media companies are testifying before Congress on Wednesday in a hearing intended to drum up support for federal legislation to safeguard children from the online world.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing from Linda Yaccarino, the chief of X, formerly known as Twitter; Shou Chew, the CEO of TikTok; Evan Spiegel, co-founder and CEO of Snap — the parent company of Snapchat; Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Meta; and Jason Citron, CEO of Discord.
Lawmakers are grilling the leaders on sexual exploitation of children online and getting illegal content off social media platforms — a growing problem in the U.S.
Top social media executives will be grilled on Capitol Hill Wednesday about whether enough is being done to protect kids and their mental health.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, daily cyber tips of child sexual abuse material online have gone up tenfold in the past 10 years, reaching 100,000 daily reports in 2023.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., called online child exploitation a “crisis in America” fueled by rapid changes in technology that give predators “powerful new tools” to target kids.
Of the CEOs testifying, Durbin said “they are not only the tech companies that have contributed to this crisis, they are responsible for many of the dangers our children face online.”
“Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety and their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk,” he said in his opening statement.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in his opening remarks shared a story about one young man who died by suicide after being exploited online.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us — I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands,” Graham said. “You have a product that’s killing people.”
In response, the CEOs are expected to discuss improvements they’ve made over the past few months. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, recently announced plans to hide content it deems inappropriate for teens.
Wednesday will be the first time Snap’s CEO, Spiegel, will testify on Capitol Hill in response to allegations that Snapchat is harming children’s mental and physical health.
Snapchat is also being sued in a class action lawsuit by several parents in California, many of whom say they lost their child to fentanyl poisoning and overdose with pills bought on Snapchat.
A spokesperson for Snap told ABC News that Spiegel will discuss his support for The Kids Online Safety Act during Wednesday’s hearing. The “KOSA” bill aims to remove “harmful ads and posts, such as addiction, eating disorders, and suicide from showing up on children’s accounts,” according to supporters of the bill.
Legislative efforts at the national level have mostly failed, but state legislators have introduced more than 100 bills that aim to regulate how children interact with social media.
Durbin noted the failure to push federal legislation forward, saying “the tech industry alone is not to blame for the situation we’re in, those of us in Congress need to look in the mirror.”
Graham, the ranking member of the committee, said Republicans are “ready to answer the call.”
“These companies must be reined in or the worst is yet to come,” Graham said.
The CEOs of social media companies like Facebook and others are speaking before a Senate committee on ways to keep kids safe.
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