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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Senate child safety hearing accuses Tech CEOs of having ‘blood on their hands

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WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Senators intensely questioned the heads of the largest ⁢social media corporations, asserting that it is imperative for Congress to swiftly enact legislation.​ One Senator even went as‍ far as to claim that these companies have “blood on their ⁤hands” ‍due to their ⁣failure to shield children⁤ from the growing menace​ of ⁤sexual predators on their platforms.

This hearing is the most recent attempt by lawmakers⁣ to address ⁢the worries of parents and ‍mental health professionals who believe that social media companies⁣ prioritize profits over implementing safeguards to protect children from harm.

“Mr. Zuckerberg, you​ and your fellow companies, I’m sure you don’t ⁣intend it, but you have blood on your ⁣hands,”⁣ stated Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., addressing Meta‌ CEO Mark⁤ Zuckerberg. “Your product is⁣ causing harm ⁤to people.”

Testifying alongside Zuckerberg were X CEO ⁢Linda ⁤Yaccarino, ‍Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, TikTok CEO⁤ Shou Zi Chew, and Discord ⁤CEO Jason Citron.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the​ Democratic chairman ‌of the Judiciary Committee,‍ referenced ⁢data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children nonprofit organization, which highlighted a ‌dramatic increase in financial⁤ “sextortion,” where a predator manipulates a minor‍ into sharing explicit content.

“This alarming rise in child sexual exploitation is fueled by one factor: technological advancements,” Durbin, ​D-Ill., stated during the hearing.

As the hearing⁤ commenced,⁣ a video was played featuring‌ children discussing their experiences of victimization on social media.

“I was sexually exploited on Facebook,” revealed one child in⁢ the video, who was shown in silhouette.

In the hearing‍ room, numerous parents held up photos of their⁣ children who they claimed ⁣had been harmed by social media. Some parents heckled Zuckerberg, whose company owns Facebook and Instagram, during his opening ⁣statement and made vocal remarks ⁤at other times ‌throughout the hearing.

Sen. ‍Josh Hawley, R-Mo., ⁤at one point,​ urged Zuckerberg to directly apologize to these ‍parents, and several individuals ⁤raised the photos of the children once again as Zuckerberg turned to address them.

Zuckerberg expressed remorse for their experiences and committed to⁣ efforts to prevent such incidents from recurring, but he refrained from accepting responsibility for enabling the abuse, as Hawley suggested he ⁣should.

In a heated exchange, the committee presented copies ‍of internal⁢ emails that showed Zuckerberg dismissing a request from Meta’s top policy ‌executive to recruit between 45 and 84 engineers ‍to focus on safety enhancements.

X’s Yaccarino stated that the company⁣ backed the STOP CSAM⁣ Act, a‌ bill introduced by Durbin that aims to hold tech companies accountable for child sexual⁢ abuse ‍material and would permit victims to sue tech platforms and app stores.

Despite several bills being proposed to address child safety, ⁤none have been enacted into ⁣law.

X, previously known as Twitter, ‍has ​faced‌ severe backlash since ‌Elon​ Musk purchased the ‌service and relaxed moderation policies.⁣ This week, it restricted‍ searches for pop singer Taylor Swift after counterfeit sexually explicit images of⁢ her circulated on the platform.

Wednesday also ⁣marked the ⁣first⁤ appearance by TikTok CEO Chew‌ before U.S. lawmakers since March, ​when the Chinese-owned short video ​app company faced severe scrutiny, including allegations that‌ the ​app was harming children’s mental⁣ health.

Chew revealed that over 170 million Americans use TikTok monthly, an increase of 20 million ​from the previous year.

When ​questioned by ‌Graham, he stated that TikTok would invest more than $2 billion in‍ trust and safety initiatives, but declined to ​compare this⁣ figure to the company’s total revenue.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, confronted Zuckerberg about warning screens on Instagram that alerted users to potentially explicit child​ sexual abuse content but⁢ still permitted them‍ to view the image.

“Mr. Zuckerberg, what on⁣ earth were ‌you thinking?” Cruz asked.

Zuckerberg responded that redirecting ‍users to ⁣resources can be beneficial rather ‍than ​blocking⁤ content outright,‍ adding that the‌ company would provide more information about the notice.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.,⁢ criticized what she perceived as inaction in the tech industry, drawing a comparison to the response when⁤ a panel blew out of⁤ a Boeing plane earlier this month.

“When a Boeing‌ plane lost a door mid-flight a few weeks ago, no⁤ one questioned the decision to ground the fleet… So‍ why aren’t we taking the same‍ decisive action on the danger of these platforms when we know these kids are at risk?” Klobuchar asked.

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Truth Media Network
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