Tech CEOs grilled on child safety online | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

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Top tech executives appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday in a tense hearing. With the parents and families of victims sitting in the room, senators grilled execs from Meta, X, Discord, Snap, and TikTok, claiming they neglected to protect children from exploitation.

Meta and TikTok received the most attention. Meta has been under heavy fire as of late: It’s currently being sued by dozens of states for allegedly failing to protect children from the addictive nature of its apps. It also faces a separate lawsuit in New Mexico accusing it of promoting underage accounts to predators.

A landmark moment: Amid intense questioning from Sen. Josh Hawley, who called on the Meta CEO to apologize, Mark Zuckerberg stood up, turned around to face the families of victims, and said, “I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should have to go through the things your families have suffered.” Zuckerberg added that the company is investing in efforts to prevent further harm to children (but critics say those proposed changes aren’t enough).

What do senators want to do?

Pass legislation. During the hearing, senators discussed several bills aimed at preventing harm to children, including the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Stop CSAM Act, which would make it easier for victims to sue tech companies.

But…each bill faces its own set of challenges. The tech industry and civil rights advocates say that these bills could do more harm to children by leading to censorship of content related to topics like gender identity and reproductive rights. There’s also controversy around the subject of encryption, which tech companies claim is necessary to guarantee users’ privacy but can also allow sexual predators to communicate with children undetected.

Will anything really change? At the hearing, only X’s Linda Yaccarino and Snap’s Evan Spiegel committed to supporting KOSA. And despite years of lawmakers trying to pass bills to make the internet safer for children, little progress has been made. It’s not clear whether yesterday’s dramatic hearing will impact child protection policies at Meta or other companies.—CC


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