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Tech CEOs face scrutiny on Capitol Hill over safety of underage users

By: Adam Beam 1/31/2024

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Meta,apologize to the families in the hearing room, saying he was sorry for "the things that your families have suffered." (Photo courtesy of CNN)

CEOs of major tech companies and social media platforms faced intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill Wednesday. The Congressional hearing focused on the alleged lack of protections for young users and the resulting harm to their families.

Discord CEO Jason Citron, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, and Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat before a Senate Judiciary Committee for hours, fielding questions about their individual platforms.

"Mr. Zuckerberg, 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," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, told the panel.

The hearing began with recorded testimonies of children and families allegedly affected and harmed by social media. In addition to these recorded testimonies, parents and family members of individuals lost to suicide were also present. Throughout the hearing, they held photos of their loved ones in silence.

Family members hold up victim photos ahead of a Senate hearing on "Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis." (Photo courtesy of CNN)

"Mental health is a complex issue, and the existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health outcomes," Zuckerberg told lawmakers.

Zuckerberg later stood up and apologized for "the things that your families have suffered."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, referenced a recent controversy in the airline industry, saying, "When a Boeing plane lost a door in mid-flight several weeks ago, nobody questioned the decision to ground a fleet of over 700 planes. So why aren't we taking the same type of decisive action on the danger of these platforms when we know these kids are dying?"

It should be noted that Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel showed support for a bill that would make apps and social platforms recommending harmful content to minors legally liable before the hearing.

While these companies and platforms have attempted to implement more tools to prevent children from having unlimited access to their software, lawmakers made it clear that more needs to be done.

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