Social media bosses face US Senate over online child safety

Social media bosses face US Senate over online child safety

Social media executives are set to testify at a US Senate hearing aimed at addressing online child exploitation. The CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord and X, formerly known as Twitter, are expected to defend their stance on Wednesday amid growing concerns and questions about how platforms are considering their impact on children.

Among the politicians attending the hearing, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters, “We’re going to work hard to hold their feet to the fire.” Ahead of the meeting, Blumenthal met up with students to discuss the mental health crisis, which he says is driven by social media.

This is not the first instance of Big Tech executives being summoned before the Senate. Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress in 2018 concerning the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the spread of fake news on the platform. However, representatives from the various tech firms invited for the hearing mentioned that their CEOs plan to extend gestures of goodwill towards senators and the public by supporting specific legislative proposals and providing policy commitments.

X’s head of U.S. and Canadian public policy, Wifredo Fernandez, told NBC News that CEO Linda Yaccarino is set to express backing for the SHIELD Act and additional child protection laws.

The SHIELD Act, introduced by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, will criminalize the distribution of sexually exploitative images of a minor that does not constitute sexually explicit content as required under the legal definition of child pornography.

According to POLITICO, a Snapchat spokesperson said its owner, Evan Spiegel, would support the Kids Online Safety Act, which would force social networking sites to promote online safety by tackling illegal material and content that is harmful to children, conducting regular risk assessments, and properly enforcing age limits.

Social media platforms face various lawsuits

In October, a massive lawsuit filed by 33 states accused Meta of knowingly designing its platforms to be addictive and harmful to children’s mental health. The claims originate from internal research leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021, revealing that 13.5% of teenage girls reported Instagram worsens suicidal thoughts, and 17% stated it aggravates eating disorders.

CNN reported that Rosemarie Calvoni was also suing Meta and other social media companies over her daughter’s struggle with anorexia.

Only days ago, Meta announced a partnership with the Center for Open Science in a bid to deepen the understanding of how social media usage may affect users’ well-being, particularly among younger demographics. At the same time, it unveiled a major privacy update, marking a significant stride in teen user protection. However, it has received criticism for disbanding its responsible AI team last year amidst the ongoing issues surrounding user well-being.

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Suswati Basu

Freelance journalist

Suswati Basu is a multilingual, award-winning editor and the founder of the intersectional literature channel, How To Be Books. She was shortlisted for the Guardian Mary Stott Prize and longlisted for the Guardian International Development Journalism Award.

With 18 years of experience in the media industry, Suswati has held significant roles such as head of audience and deputy editor for NationalWorld news, digital editor for Channel 4 News
and ITV News. She has also contributed to the Guardian and received training at the BBC As an audience, trends, and SEO specialist, she has participated in panel events alongside Google.

Her career also includes a seven-year tenure at the leading AI company Dataminr, where she led the Europe desk and launched the company’s first employee resource group for disabilities. Before this, Suswati worked as a journalist in China for four years, investigating censorship and the Great Firewall, and acquired proficiency in several languages.

In recent years, Suswati has been nominated for six awards, including the Independent Podcast Awards, International Women’s Podcast Awards, and the Anthem Awards for her literary social affairs show.

Her areas of speciality span a wide range, including technology, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), social politics, mental health, and nonfiction books.

The post “Social media bosses face US Senate over online child safety” by Suswati Basu was published on 01/31/2024 by