U.S. Senate Grills Social Media CEOs Regarding Child Safety
February 02, 2024
2 min 19 sec read
The heat is on as the U.S. Senate grills social media CEOs regarding the efforts they're making to protect our children from predators online. This isn't new. Concerns about how safe kids are online is an ongoing fight, but now Senators are making it clear that social media platforms need to step up their game to protect minors.
The CEOs of Snap, Meta, X, and TikTok appeared before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on January 31st
to talk about what their companies are doing to fight the exploitation of children and to prevent dangerous content from reaching children in their apps.
The CEOs faced some hard questions about ongoing efforts of new initiatives to better protect kids, even as some of the Senators expressed criticism and doubt about how the platforms are handling their efforts so far.
The hearing, "Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis," is part of an earlier session where the Senate listened as child safety experts testified about harm social media apps can cause to children. The hearing, initially scheduled for last year, was put off to make sure all of the CEOs could be there.
The Senate wasn't letting anybody skip out.
On Wednesday, the bigwigs themselves were afforded the opportunity to present their cases and were expected to go into detail about combating child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
Each of the CEOs read a prepared statement that highlighted their efforts.
Zuckerberg (Mark, of Facebook fame) outlined Meta's protective systems and stated that Meta has "40,000 dedicated staff working on safety and security." He also said that Meta has invested over $20 billion in its efforts on this front since 2016.
Zuckerberg suggested that social media's dangers might be overstated, referring to several studies by the National Academies of Sciences, stating that "social media can provide significant positive benefits when young people use it to express themselves, explore, and connect with others." He also reminded the Senate of Meta's proposal that app stores be held responsible for downloads by minors.
X CEO Linda Yaccarino said, "In the last 14 months X has made material changes to protect minors. Our policy is clear – X has zero tolerance towards any material that features or promotes child sexual exploitation."
Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel stressed that the app is private by default and that "the images and videos sent through our service delete by default."
It sounds like that wouldn't help the cause, but might make it easier for predators to do what they do best, like prey on children.
And TikTok, which is already on the "let's ban them" list for a lot of senators because of the Chinese government connection, says, "We currently have more than 40,000 trust and safety professionals working to protect our community, and we expect to invest more than two billion dollars in trust and safety efforts this year alone — with a significant part of that investment in our US operations."
Some senators asked for specific changes to the law, especially in Section 230, that reduce protections for social platforms regarding harmful content. So far, the proposals regarding Section 230, which protects social apps from lawsuits for content shared by users, have been ignored or shut down.
There were a lot of questions asked and some pretty heated debates. Much more than we can cover in three minutes. This topic is already hot and getting hotter by the second, so we'll keep you updated as the fight rages on.
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