Social Media Executives Called to Testify Before Senate on Child Exploitation

The Senate Judiciary Committee expects the CEOs of Meta and TikTok to testify voluntarily.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed the CEOs of social media companies X, Discord, and Snap Inc. to testify before the committee at a Dec. 6 hearing on online child exploitation.

The three subpoenas were issued on Nov. 16 after the leaders’ “repeated refusals to appear during several weeks of negotiations,” per a joint press release from Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

“Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered,” the senators said. “At our February hearing on protecting children’s safety online, we promised Big Tech that they’d have their chance to explain their failures to protect kids. Now’s that chance.”

The subpoenaed individuals were Linda Yaccarino of X, Jason Citron of Discord, and Evan Spiegel of Snap Inc.

According to the committee, X and Discord refused to accept service of the subpoenas on behalf of their CEOs “in a remarkable departure from typical practice.” Those subpoenas were ultimately served in person with help from the U.S. Marshals service.

Meanwhile, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew remain in talks with the committee and are expected to appear voluntarily.

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“Hearing from the CEOs of some of the world’s largest social media companies will help inform the Committee’s efforts to address the crisis of online child sexual exploitation,” the senators added.

Wilfredo Hernandez, head of government affairs for X in the United States and Canada, said in a statement that the company is “working in good faith” to comply with the committee’s order, stressing that safety is the “top priority at X.”

“Today we are communicating our updated availability to participate in a hearing on this important issue,” he said.

Discord had a similar response.

“Keeping our users safe, especially young people, is central to everything we do at Discord,” a company spokesperson told The Epoch Times. “We have been actively engaging with the Committee on how we can best contribute to this important industry discussion. We welcome the opportunity to work together as an industry and with the Committee.”

And according to a Snap spokesperson, Mr. Spiegel has likewise agreed to testify and the company is now coordinating with committee staff to find a date that works.

Attempts to Protect Children

Meanwhile, in a timely blog post, Meta’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis said Congress should pass federal legislation requiring app stores to obtain parental consent when minors under age 16 seek to download apps.

“This way parents can oversee and approve their teen’s online activity in one place. They can ensure their teens are not accessing adult content or apps, or apps they just don’t want their teens to use. And where apps like ours offer age-appropriate features and settings, parents can help ensure their teens use them,” Ms. Davis wrote on Nov. 15.

The post followed a Nov. 14 letter the Judiciary Committee sent Mr. Zuckerberg amid allegations that Meta hid evidence of its platforms’ harms to children.

Citing the testimony of former Facebook executive Arturo Béjar, the committee charged that Meta executives “knew that over half of Instagram users report having one bad or harmful experience each week, including a quarter of young teens reporting having received unwanted sexual advances.”

Despite that knowledge, the committee said Meta hid that information from the public and Congress “while providing misleading statistics, ignoring recommendations to protect teens, and even rolling back safety tools.”

Since the start of the year, the Judiciary Committee has advanced several bills aimed at protecting children online.

One of those bills is the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, which would remove tech firms’ immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws and form a national commission to prevent child sexual exploitation.

Other proposed measures aim to support victims and increase transparency and accountability for online platforms and modernize how online child exploitation crimes are investigated and prosecuted.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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