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Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing with Facebook Whistleblower on Harms to Kids

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement during a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law hearing entitled “Social Media and the Teen Mental Health Crisis” with Facebook whistleblower Arturo Béjar, former Director of Engineering for Facebook’s Protect and Care team.

Key Quotes:

“In the Senate Judiciary Committee, after some graphic hearings where parents and victims came forward and told us what had happened to them online, we decided to take action.  We passed six bills related to this issue—child sexual abuse and similar issues… Six bills waiting for a day on the calendar.  Six bills waiting for a national debate… They put real teeth in enforcement too and I think that is why they have gone nowhere.  Big Tech is the big kid on the block when it comes to this issue and many other issues before us.  That’s the reality.”

“Mr. Béjar, thank you for the courage of stepping up and speaking out… It is not only a parent issue, it is a grandparent issue.  We see this and it scares the hell out of us.  Thank you for what you have brought us today.  I’m particularly intrigued by your idea of a survey, so we can find out from the source what is really happening.”

“My experience on Capitol Hill goes back several years.  I took on the tobacco issue.  We were hitting our head against the wall, trying to penetrate this vast lobby at the time.  The one way we managed to penetrate it was to make it a children’s issue—protecting kids from addiction to tobacco.  And then a lot of good things started happening.”

“Why is it that this issue, which relates to our kids so much more and is so much more dangerous, even than tobacco in my estimation, why is it so difficult?  Senator Hawley is correct. We are really fighting the biggest kid on the block when it comes to this issue.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.

Since the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on this issue in February, five bills have advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis to help stop the exploitation of kids online, including:

  • Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act, which supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.
  • The EARN IT Act, which removes tech’s blanket immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws and establishes a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention;
  • The SHIELD Actwhich ensures that federal prosecutors have appropriate and effective tools to address the nonconsensual distribution of sexual imagery;
  • The Project Safe Childhood Act, which modernizes the investigation and prosecution of online child exploitation crimes; and
  • The REPORT Act, which combats the rise in online child sexual exploitation by instilling new measures to help strengthen reporting of those crimes to the CyberTipline.

The Committee has also advanced the Cooper Davis Act on a bipartisan basis.  The bill, as amended in Committee, would require social media companies to take on a more active role in reporting the illegal sale and distribution of drugs on their platforms.