HOUSTON, US – Leaders of the largest social media companies testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday regarding protecting children from harmful and dangerous online content.
The CEOs of Meta (Facebook), TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and Snapchat appeared before Congress to answer questions about how their social media platforms have contributed to the negative effects on children's lives, including sexual exploitation, bullying, self-harm, and eating disorders.
They responded to parents' testimonies about their kids committing suicide because of cyberbullying or their children being exposed to explicit online sexual content.
"I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through. It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered," said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who owns Facebook and Instagram.
"And this is why we invest so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer."
But lawmakers lambasted the social media bosses for not doing enough to protect kids from an array of problems, including sexual predators, explicit sexual content, online bullying, and unrealistic beauty standards. The senators told company leaders that they were designing and operating "dangerous products."
"Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us, I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. “You have a product that’s killing people."
X CEO Linda Yaccarino told the committee that less than one percent of users on the former Twitter social media platform were minors. She appeared to defer responsibility for protecting children from things like being exposed to explicit sexual content by claiming X was a new company, even though Twitter was established nearly two decades ago in 2006.
"Being a 14-month-old company, we have reprioritized child protection and safety measures and we have just begun to talk about and discuss how we can enhance those with parental controls," said Yaccarino.
"No one should have to endure nonconsensual images being shared online."
The committee had some heated exchanges with the social media CEOs, telling them that they needed to be held accountable for providing harmful and explicit content to children who use their apps.
"They’re responsible for many of the dangers our children face online,” said committee chairman Sen. Dick Durbin.
"Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk."
A representative for Google's YouTube platform was not at the hearing, despite YouTube being the social media platform that kids use the most.
According to the Pew Research Center, 93 percent of US teenagers use YouTube, 30 percent higher than those who use TikTok. (Anadolu)