Big Tech grilled by aggressive senators at safety hearing

by ian


Social Media isn’t catching a break from Congress, at least if yesterday’s hearing is any indication.

On Wednesday, the chief executives of Meta, X, TikTok, Discord and Snap sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss online safety for kids and teenagers. Lawmakers ended up slamming these company leaders for what they said was failing to protect kids from abuse and exploitation online.

Near the beginning of the hearing, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) told Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg that, whether intentional or not, the Big Tech CEO has “blood on his hands.”

That was just the start of the hearing. As questions moved among the committee, lawmakers took turns excoriating the CEOs over what they said was their mismanagement of online protection for children.

Perhaps the most defining moment of this type of questioning is when Zuckerberg stood and apologized to the families following a challenge from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

At the same time, senators demanded to know what steps the companies have taken to improve child safety. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) again focusing on Zuckerberg, got into a heated debate with the Meta leader over the efficacy of a “warning screen” preceding a potentially disturbing, even illegal, video.

As is probably easy to tell, Zuckerberg was a favorite target among especially Republican lawmakers. But the other CEOs had to answer as well. Following Zuckerberg, TikTok CEO Shou Chew took the most heat for similar incidents of child abuse, as well as the company’s ties to China.

Another interesting point in the hearing related to questions about the Kids Online Safety Act. This bill, which is yet to be passed, would require online services to take so-called “reasonable measures” to prevent harm to minors.

This vaguely worded term had some executives concerned, but the CEOs of Snap and X both threw their endorsement behind the proposal.