U.S. Marshals will deliver subpoenas to the CEOs of Snap, X and Discord to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about child exploitation online, the committee said Monday, accusing the social media companies of refusing to voluntarily agree to let the CEOs appear before the committee.
The committee enlisted U.S. Marshals to issue subpoenas to Discord CEO Jason Citron, Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel and CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter, Linda Yaccarino after “repeated refusals to appear during several weeks of negotiations,” Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a joint statement, calling the move “a remarkable departure from typical practice.”
The committee said it expects Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew to testify voluntarily at the December 6 hearing on online child sexual exploitation.
The hearing comes after advocates testified before the committee in February about the challenges of protecting children online from dangers including privacy concerns, cyberbullying, sexual exploitation and the addictive nature of social media.
Snap Inc. spokesperson Pete Boogaard said Spiegel will comply with the subpoena and the company “coordinating with Committee staff on potential dates, adding “we appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee to discuss this vital issue.”
Forbes has reached out to X and Discord.
“Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unnoticed,” Durbin and Graham said. “At our February hearing on protecting children’s safety online, we promised Big Tech that they’d have their chance to explain their failures to protect kids. Now’s that chance.”
Senators have introduced several bipartisan bills this year designed to tighten protections for children online, including new measures to make it easier to report online child exploitation and strengthen investigations and prosecution of those crimes. The “EARN IT Act,” sponsored by Graham and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), would allow states to prosecute internet companies that fail to remove child sex abuse material from their platforms, reforming section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that afforded tech companies immunity for content posted on their sites by a third party. The provision, which states that “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,” has come under heightened scrutiny in recent years amid a rise in online hate speech and new platforms, such as 4chan and Gab, that have become havens for extremists. Revisions to section 230 are highly controversial, as its proponents, including its co-author Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), argue that the law also gives platforms leeway to police their content and significant changes could result in over-censorship.