Senators on Wednesday grilled the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord and X in a heated hearing about the harm they pose to teens and children online. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew faced the brunt of pressure from the panel, which focused primarily on the ways teens and children can be harmed through FacebookInstagram and TikTok. But each CEO faced questions about the policies they have put in place to mitigate the risks of online sexual exploitation, as well as the spread of harmful content that promotes suicide, self-harm and eating disorders during the roughly four and a half hours of questioning.
The packed courtroom was filled with parents and survivor advocates holding photos of victims and pressuring not only the companies but also senators to add regulations that would hold the companies accountable. Zuckerberg faced constant pressure over the impact of Meta’s platforms on teens’ mental health and how the company intended to appeal to younger users.
Chew came under fire from lawmakers over TikTok’s ties to China. The video-based social media app has previously faced bipartisan scrutiny over concerns about data privacy and national security. When pressed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) about a report suggesting that Texas Project workers have been ordered to share data with other parts of ByteDance or with ByteDance itself, Chew disputed it.
Senators were aggressive in their questions to technology CEOs. While most of the anger was directed at questions for Meta and TikTok, lawmakers went further to question them about their companies’ policies. Both Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) accused Zuckerberg of running a product that is “killing people.”
Now there is pressure on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to call a vote on legislation discussed Wednesday that aims to mitigate harm to young users. The Judiciary Committee last year introduced five bills aimed at stopping exploitation of children online including STOP CSAM Act which would allow victims sue technology companies for content published by third parties.
In this context to these bills before Judiciary Committee, Senate Commerce Committee advanced two other bills: COPPA 2.0 which would update data privacy rules for minors; Child Online Safety Act (KOSA). Those bills came out committee with bipartisan support last year but Schumer has not brought any forward for full Senate vote.