On Wednesday, Jan 31st, Tech CEOs Mark Zuckerberg (Meta), Linda Yaccarino (X/Twitter), Evan Spiegel (Snapchat), and Shou Zi Chew (Tik Tok), Jason Citron (Discord) testified before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on online child sexual exploitation, child suicide rates and illegal drugs work.
The hearings touched on a variety of issues, ranging from human trafficking to concerns about Communist China and various political topics. The Judiciary members made sure that the Tech leaders could understand the responsibility they had on their shoulders.
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.Republican Senator Lindsey Graham
The Committee hearing started with Senior Senator Mr Durbin addressing all the present witnesses followed by a video made by the victims of social media abuse, many of whom were present in the US Capitol. After having the judicial oath done the Tech CEOs were given time for their respective open statements. After this world witnessed one of the most brutal Senate hearings.
Opening Statements from the CEOs
Jason Citron CEO of Discord acknowledged the responsibility Discord had due to its young user base and described safety measures like CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) detection, reporting tools, and age-gating.
Mark Zuckerberg CEO of Meta spoke of Meta’s investments in safety, content moderation, and partnerships with law enforcement. He denied claims of a causal link between social media and mental health harm.
Mental health is a complex issue and the existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between social media and young people having worse mental health problems.Mark Zuckerberg
(His statement was met with skepticism and interruptions from the audience.)
Evan Spiegel CEO of Snapchat described Snapchat’s focus on short content and proactive safety features like age verification and reporting mechanisms. He admitted challenges in detecting and removing CSAM.
X’s Linda Yaccarino shared her concern about CSAM and X‘s commitment to Child Safety
Shou Zi Chew CEO of Tik Tok spoke of realising the responsibility of running a billion users platform. He shared some major concerns over child exploitation, CSAM, and mental health.
The Judiciary Committee
The judiciary committee consisted of members from the republicans and the democrat. Each committee member was given time to question the CEOs, there were a few who made the headlines.
Mr Hawley and Mark Zuckerberg CEO of Meta
Mr Hawley’s interrogation came in with a thrashing pound on Mark the CEO of Meta, asking him of his opening statement. Hawley’s interrogation further went down so brutally and he made Zuckerberg stand up and apologize to the whole crowd full of parents.
Mr. Cruz and the CEOs
Mr Cruz talked about the child exploitation found on platforms like Facebook (now Meta), and Instagram. He accused Chew CEO, of Tik Tok for having leaked national data to the Chinese government.
Mr Cotton and Chew CEO of TikTok
Mr Cotton brutally questioned Shou Zi Chew about his nationality and his connections with the Chinese Communist Party.
Although all the top CEOs of modern-day technology were present, more pressure and focus were put on Mark Zuckerberg and Shou Zi Chew.
This senate hearing on child online safety held at the US Capitol gives us a moment to look back and question the modern advancement of technology. We use the internet for various purposes, but is it a safe space though?