Updated January 31st, 2024 at 13:21 IST
While Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a veteran of congressional hearings, faces the committee again, it’s the second appearance for TikTok CEO and debut of X CEO.
Social media apps | Image:Unsplash
Child safety concerns on social media: Issues such as child exploitation, addictive features, self-harm, eating disorders, unrealistic beauty standards, and bullying on social media platforms are under scrutiny as CEOs from Meta, TikTok, X, and other companies testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Lawmakers, families, and advocates are expressing growing concerns about the negative impact of social media on the lives of young people.
While Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a veteran of congressional hearings, faces the committee again, it’s the second appearance for TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and the debut for X CEO Linda Yaccarino. Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Discord CEO Jason Citron are also scheduled to testify. The focus of the hearing is likely to be on Meta, which is facing lawsuits from multiple states alleging it knowingly designed features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children and failed to protect them from online predators.
Advocates argue that companies should prioritise safety and privacy over profits. Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of Design It For Us, a youth-led coalition advocating for safer social media, underlined the need for independent regulation to intervene when companies fall short. Meta has recently announced updates to its child safety features, including hiding inappropriate content on Instagram and Facebook and restricting minors’ message capabilities. However, critics argue that these measures are insufficient to address the underlying safety concerns for children on these platforms.
Arturo Béjar, a former engineering director at Meta, criticized the company’s response to past scandals, stating that promised features often end up hidden in settings few people use. The absence of Google’s YouTube from the hearing is notable, despite its high usage among teens. Pew Research Center indicates that 93 per cent of US teens use YouTube, making it a significant platform in discussions about child safety on social media.
As the Senate Judiciary Committee delves into these issues, concerns linger about the efficacy of measures taken by social media companies to ensure the safety and well-being of young users. The hearing aims to address these challenges and explore ways to enhance child protection on digital platforms.