US senators are questioning CEOs of major tech companies about child abuse on social media

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Several CEOs of major technology companies gathered in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to testify before the Senate on child safety policies.

The CEOs of Twitter/X, TikTok, Discord, Meta, and Snap testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat. The session began with video testimonies from those targeted by attackers on social media, as well as their families.

“Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies that came before us, I know you don’t mean it to be this way, but… You have blood on your hands“You have a product that is killing people,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said during the hearing.

In his introduction, Graham called on politicians to abolish Article 230part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. This section protects social media companies by providing immunity from civil liability based on third-party content or removal of content in certain circumstances.

Lindsey Graham tells Mark Zuckerberg he has blood on his hands

Durbin said both CEOs and politicians bear responsibility, and called on Congress to act. His call comes after Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, introduced an updated version of the law. Shield Law In 2023. Her bill would criminalize the non-consensual transmission of intimate depictions and visual depictions of nude minors.

TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg were the only executives who appeared voluntarily, Durbin said. He said Discord CEO Jason Citron, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, and Twitter/X CEO Linda Yaccarino attended because of the subpoenas.

At the hearing, Ms. Yaccarino and Twitter/X became the first major social media company to endorse the STOP CSAM Act, Mr. Graham said.

Conversely, Discord’s Mr. Citron defended his platform’s practices in keeping kids safe, saying its teen safety software lets them know if they’re engaging in an inappropriate conversation with someone so they can report and block a user.

But South Carolina’s Graham, the committee’s top Republican, criticized tech companies for obstructing the legislation.

“If you wait for these guys to solve the problem, we’re going to die waiting,” Graham said.

Discord CEO Jason Citron faced intense questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham

(AP)

Senators from both parties have pushed to pass the Children’s Internet Safety Act. The legislation will require online social media platforms to take measures in the design and operation of products used by children to “prevent and mitigate” various harms that may come from use such as sexual exploitation and cyberbullying.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee who co-sponsored the Children’s Online Safety Act, said Zuckerberg suggested children’s lives were worth $270 in internal messages.

“The children are not your priority,” Ms. Blackburn said. “Children are your product.”

“It sounds like you’re trying to be the number one site for sex trafficking,” Blackburn later said.

Zuckerberg responded: “Senator, this is ridiculous.”

The bill would also require platforms to provide safeguards such as restricting access to personal data of children under 18 and giving parents and guardians tools to supervise minors’ use of the platform. Platforms will also be required to disclose specific information such as details regarding personalized recommendation systems and advertising targeted at underage individuals.

Social media platforms should also allow schools, guardians, guardians and minors to report certain harms and refrain from advertising age-restricted products such as gambling or tobacco to minors. They will also be required to report annually any perceived risks to minors.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, received applause when he questioned Zuckerberg about the effects of meta platforms on teens’ mental health.

“You know full well your product is a disaster for teenagers,” Mr. Hawley told Meta’s CEO as he was met with applause and cheers.

Mr. Hawley asked whether Mr. Zuckerberg had compensated the families of victims of online assault or whether he had apologized. His questions were met with cheers and applause.

“Do you know who’s sitting behind you?” asked Meta CEO Mr. Hawley. “There are families from all over the country whose children have been severely harmed or have passed away.”

Many audience members stood and held up pictures of children and loved ones affected by the abuse Mr. Zuckerberg stood up and addressed them.

“I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through,” he said. “No one should have to go through what your families went through. That’s why we’ve invested so much and will continue industry-leading efforts to make sure no one has to go through the types of things your families went through.”

Mark Zuckerberg apologized to the families of victims of online abuse after intense questioning from Senator Josh Hawley

(AP)

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut also confronted Zuckerberg with a series of emails from Meta’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg. In 2021 emails, Clegg said the company was not on track to achieve success in “core luxury themes.”

“Nick Clegg has been asking you, pleading with you, to provide the resources necessary to support the narrative to meet the commitments,” Mr. Blumenthal told Mr. Zuckerberg.

Other parts of the testimony appear to have deviated from the topic.

Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, appeared to inexplicably confuse Singaporean citizenship with Chinese citizenship when he repeatedly asked Mr Chiu of TikTok what his nationality was.

“Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party?” Senator Cotton asked.

“Senator, I am a Singaporean. No,” Mr Chew replied.

Cotton asked again: “Have you ever been associated with or joined the Chinese Communist Party?”

“No, Senator. “Again, I’m a Singaporean,” Mr Chew said.

Mr. Durbin concluded the hearing with a call for immediate action to protect children from abuse on social media.

“Is our technology greater than humanity? I think that’s a fundamental question. And what I would add to it is: Is our politics greater than technology?”

This article originally appeared on www.independent.co.uk

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