WASHINGTON — Tech CEOs are set to testify Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee about child safety issues on social media platforms and will offer rare policy commitments and regulatory endorsements, company representatives said.
The hearing has attracted significant attention in the tech industry and Washington and will bring together the CEOs of X, TikTok, Discord, Meta and SNAP to address concerns and questions about how platforms are considering their impact on children.
Such committee hearings with tech CEOs have often been adversarial, and this hearing is projected to be no different. But according to representatives from some of the tech companies called to testify, their CEOs will offer olive branches to senators and the public in the form of legislative endorsements and policy assurances.
X’s chief of public policy Wifredo Fernandez told NBC News that CEO Linda Yaccarino would offer support for the SHIELD Act and other pieces of child safety legislation.
The SHIELD Act, introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., criminalizes the transmission of nonconsensual intimate images and sexualized depictions of children.
Other child safety laws proposed in the Senate include the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which would create a “duty of care” for social media companies that recommend content to minors. Also introduced in the Senate is the Stop CSAM Act, which aims to expand protections for minor victims, enhance child abuse reporting requirements and make it easier for victims to request that content be removed from platforms.
Last week, Snap was one of the first major social media platforms to stand behind KOSA, reportedly telling Politico that the proposed legislation aligned with its existing policies.
In November, Meta published a blog post advocating for federal legislation that “requires app stores to get parents’ approval whenever their teens under 16 download apps.”
Tech companies have been slow to advocate for legislation that would create regulation in their industry.
A source close to the Senate Judiciary Committee said that part of the larger strategy behind the hearings was to publicly pressure such commitments from CEOs and create a pathway for passing legislation this year.
Yaccarino isn’t the only CEO planning to make such announcements Wednesday.
According to a representative for SNAP, CEO Evan Spiegel will share that the company will not further deploy encryption on Snapchat in ways that may prevent scanning for child sexual abuse material.
Elements of Snapchat are already encrypted, like single person-to-person photo messages, but Snapchat says it does proactively scan other parts of Snapchat and other communications for material like CSAM or that might indicate other dangerous behaviors.
The deployment of encryption on apps has been deeply controversial.
Many child safety advocates say end-to-end encryption, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to obtain messages from suspected child predators, does irreparable harm to investigations that could save lives. Privacy advocates have said that encryption of digital communications should be considered a human right and that it offers protection from surveillance for victims and whistleblowers.