Top tech executives on Wednesday faced a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on children’s safety online, with lawmakers expressing frustration over the industry’s self-policing failures. Despite the intense scrutiny, the hearing resulted in little concrete progress.
What Happened: The hearing saw a dramatic apology from Meta Platforms Inc. META CEO Mark Zuckerberg for harmful content facing children on social media. The CEOs of other tech giants, including TikTok and Discord, were also present.
The hearing also saw lawmakers, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), criticizing the tech platforms for their inability to effectively police themselves. “Collectively, your platforms really s**k at policing themselves,” Whitehouse said.
Despite the criticism, the tech industry has largely opposed any new laws aimed at protecting children online. The CEOs offered at best partial support for multiple bills currently stalled in the Senate, reported Politico.
During the hearing, X CEO Linda Yaccarino became the first platform leader to endorse Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin’s (D-Ill.) STOP CSAM Act. This act aims to peel back tech platforms’ liability shield, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to allow individuals who have faced online child sexual exploitation to sue the platform that distributed the material.
However, when asked about their support for the full suite of laws, the group largely remained silent or demurred. This included Yaccarino, who declined to support the EARN IT Act, sponsored by Graham, which would also curtail tech’s liability shield.
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Why It Matters: The hearing is anticipated to serve as a crucial juncture in the continuous discussion surrounding child safety and online regulation.
Previously, Snap Inc. endorsed KOSA, asserting its alignment with its current policies. In November last year, Meta endorsed legislation advocating for app stores to secure parental consent for teens under 16 downloading apps.
Earlier this month, Meta, the parent company overseeing Facebook and Instagram, revealed a collaboration with the Center for Open Science to provide researchers focusing on well-being with “privacy-preserving social media data”
Photo Courtesy: Anthony Ricci on Shutterstock.com
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