CEOs of Meta, TikTok, X, and other companies faced intense questioning from United States lawmakers regarding the risks posed to children and teenagers on social media platforms.
On Wednesday, these executives testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, responding to heightened concerns from parents and lawmakers who assert that companies are not taking sufficient measures to mitigate online threats for children, including issues like blocking sexual predators and preventing teen suicide.
In his opening remarks, US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who chairs the committee, asserted, “They’re responsible for many of the dangers our children face online.” He pointed to their design choices, inadequate investment in trust and safety, and a constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety as factors putting children and grandchildren at risk.
Durbin referred to statistics from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, highlighting a significant increase in financial “sextortion” cases last year, where predators trick minors into sending explicit photos and videos.
During the hearing, the committee played a video featuring children sharing their experiences of victimization on social media platforms. One child in the video, appearing in shadow, stated, “I was sexually exploited on Facebook.”
Senator Lindsey Graham directly addressed Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, saying, “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. You have a product that’s killing people.”
Zuckerberg testified alongside X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, and Discord CEO Jason Citron.
X’s Yaccarino expressed the company’s support for the STOP CSAM Act, a bill introduced by Durbin that aims to hold tech companies accountable for child sexual abuse material, allowing victims to sue tech platforms and app stores. Despite several bills addressing child safety, none have been enacted into law.
X, formerly Twitter, faced significant criticism following its acquisition by Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, who relaxed moderation policies. This week, the platform garnered attention for blocking searches related to pop singer Taylor Swift due to the spread of fake sexually explicit images.
Wednesday marked TikTok CEO Chew’s first appearance before US lawmakers since March, when the Chinese-owned short video app faced tough questioning, including concerns about the app’s impact on children’s mental health.