Laura Normand / The Verge
Some of the biggest names in tech will testify before the US Senate on January 31st, 2024 during a hearing about online child exploitation. In a Wednesday announcement, the Senate Judiciary Committee said it will hear from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, X (formerly Twitter) CEO Linda Yaccarino, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, and Discord CEO Jason Citron.
Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued subpoenas for Yaccarino, Spiegel, and Citron earlier this month after receiving “repeated refusals to appear during several weeks of negotiations.” Zuckerberg and Chew voluntarily agreed to testify. The senators say the hearing will give the CEOs the chance to “testify about their failure to protect children online.”
Meta is currently facing lawsuits from dozens of states over claims it misled the public about the safety of Facebook and Instagram. Meanwhile, school districts across the US have filed suit against Meta, ByteDance, Alphabet, and Snap, accusing them of running platforms “addictive” to kids.
“We’ve known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech,” Senators Durbin and Graham said in a joint statement. “They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids. Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs. Parents and kids demand action.”
The hearing comes as part of a bipartisan effort to clamp down on child safety rules across the internet. Over the past year, online safety bills across several states have gone into effect with the goal of protecting children online. However, critics argue the bills are too far-reaching and could do more harm than good.
In March, Utah signed a bill that will require minors to obtain parental consent to sign up to social platforms, while both Louisiana and Mississippi now require age verification to view content considered harmful to children, like porn. Other child safety bills, like the Kids Online Safety Act and COPPA 2.0 were also recently approved by the Senate Commerce Committee despite pushback from privacy advocates.