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Preview: Senate Judiciary Committee to Press Big Tech CEOs on Failures to Protect Kids Online During Landmark Hearing Today

The bipartisan hearing marks the first time a group of Big Tech CEOs will testify on online child sexual exploitation, including three first-time Congressional testimonies from the CEOs of X, Snap, and Discord

WASHINGTON – In case you missed it, the Senate Judiciary Committee will press the CEOs of Discord, Meta, Snap, TikTok, and X (formerly known as Twitter) on their failures to protect kids from sexual exploitation online. U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, previewed the hearing in a speech on the Senate floor.

The landmark, bipartisan hearing marks the first time a group of Big Tech CEOs will testify on online child sexual exploitation before Congress, including first-time Congressional appearances from the CEOs of X, Snap, and Discord.

Visit this webpage for an overview of the Committee’s efforts, including descriptions of the pending legislation and a timeline of events. Watch the hearing live.

Read and watch preview coverage below:

NBC’s TODAY: Tech CEOs on the Hot Seat

By: Kate Snow | January 31, 2024 | [Link]

Snow: “The top bosses of Meta, TikTok, Snapchat, X, and Discord called before Congress to answer for what lawmakers call a crisis for America’s kids: sexual exploitation of children on those platforms.”

Chair Durbin: “The numbers that come back to us tell us the exploitation of children is growing by leaps and bounds. And what are we doing about it? We’re clinging to old law which basically exempts this industry from liability.”

CBS Evening News: Tech Leaders to Testify on Kids’ Social Media Safety

By: Jo Ling Kent | January 30, 2024 | [Play | Download]

Kent: “Whose responsibility is it to keep kids safe online? Is it the tech companies? Is it the parents?”

Chair Durbin: “The parents are fighting a losing battle. Parents doing their very best cannot keep up with this technology and these companies have the singular responsibility to police this.”

Ranking Member Graham: “In 2024, the largest businesses in the history of mankind - social media - are unregulated.”

Chair Durbin: “The fact of the matter is we’re going to do something.”

CNBC’s Last Call: Social Media CEOs to Testify Wed.

By: Contessa Brewer | January 30, 2024 | [Play] [Download]

Sen. Welch: “Social media has the advantage of immunity from lawsuits because of Section 230. We’re going to have a lot of parents who have lost their kids to suicides that are going to be in the audience.”

Sen. Welch: “The media companies – never doing better as you mentioned with the stock price –  they have a business model where they amplify things that disturb kids, because they get more hits. The more hits they get, the more advertising revenues they get. And even as their share prices are going up, the personnel whose job it is to monitor content and abuse, including sexual abuse, they are getting laid off.”

Washington Post: Tech CEOs will testify on kids’ safety. Here’s what to watch for.

By: Cristiano Lima-Strong | January 30, 2024 | [Link]

“Senators will question the CEOs of five major tech companies on Wednesday about their alleged failure to stamp out child abuse material on their platforms. The session — featuring testimony from the heads of Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord and X — is the chamber’s highest-profile hearing on the topic to date.”


“’There are no heroes in this conversation, as far as I'm concerned,’ Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the committee, said of the witness lineup in an interview ahead of the hearing.”

“While Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg will be testifying for his eighth time and TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew for his second, all three other CEOs — X’s Linda Yaccarino, Snap’s Evan Spiegel and Discord’s Jason Citron — will be making their congressional debut. Additionally, the latter three are all appearing under congressional subpoena after the Senate Judiciary Committee accused the companies of not fully cooperating with its oversight requests. That tension could foreshadow an especially frosty reception for the executives. (The companies said after the subpoenas that they had been in talks to testify with the committee.)”

“‘Some of these companies were brought dragging and screaming into the hearing,’ Durbin said.”


“Child sexual abuse survivors and their families are expected to attend the session and will partake in a rally with lawmakers afterward to push for legislation, committee aides said. Some are expected to bring photographs or T-shirts into the hearing room to highlight the toll of their experiences as the CEOs testify, they said.” 

New York Times: Meta, TikTok and Other Tech Chiefs to Face Lawmakers on Child Safety Online

By: David McCabe | January 31, 2024 | [Link]

“Five of the most prominent chief executives in tech will face questions on Wednesday from a powerful Senate committee about an issue that has drawn rare bipartisan scrutiny: the dangers that children encounter online.”


“A growing chorus of lawmakers have recently called for measures to crack down on the spread of child sexual abuse material online and to hold the platforms responsible for protecting young people. The bipartisan backlash against the tech platforms has mounted after accusations that the companies knew they hosted underage users and that their products could be harmful.”


“Last year, the senators took the unusual step of subpoenaing Evan Spiegel, the chief executive of Snap; Jason Citron, the chief executive of Discord; and Linda Yaccarino, the chief executive of X, the social network formerly called Twitter, to testify. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and TikTok’s chief executive, Shou Chew, will also testify. Mr. Durbin and Mr. Graham said at the time that several “companies initially refused to accept a subpoena” and U.S. marshals tried to deliver the demand directly to Discord’s offices.”

MSNBC’s Morning Joe: Today: Senate Cmte. Hearing on Kids’ Online Safety

By: Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski | January 31, 2024 | [Play] [Download]

Sen. Blumenthal: “We’re going to hear a lot of verbiage. A lot of high tech bologna. One of my goals is to show how Big Tech has failed to match action with its promises and commitments.”

CNBC’s The Exchange: Social Media CEOs Head to the Hill

By: Julia Boorstin | January 30, 2024 | [Play | Download]

Boorstin: “This is being called ‘the seat belt moment’ for child safety on social platforms, where Big Tech could be pushed to crack down on the sharing of sexual videos and pictures of kids online. Meta, TikTok, Snap, X, and Discord will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow on their work to combat child sexual abuse material.”

USA TODAY: Meta, TikTok and Other Tech Chiefs to Face Lawmakers on Child Safety Online

By: Bailey Schulz | January 31, 2024 | [Link]

“Heads of the social media platforms say they have already taken steps to protect young users. […] But critics say these sorts of tools don’t go far enough, and hope the hearing will push lawmakers to take action. Congress has reported multiple bipartisan bills over the past year to address these concerns, including the STOP CSAM Act, which would allow victims of child exploitation to sue tech platforms.”


“This will be Zuckerberg’s eighth time testifying before Congress. It's a first for Yaccarino, Spiegel and Citron, the three of whom were subpoenaed to appear after ‘repeated refusals over weeks of negotiations’ to testify, according to the committee.”

Wall Street Journal: Meta, TikTok CEOs to Defend Against Claims Their Platforms Hurt Children

By: John McKinnon, Ryan Tracy | January 31, 2024 | [Link]

“Meta Platforms’ Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew and other tech CEOs will take heat on Wednesday from senators who say that online risks for children are growing—and going largely ignored by some social-media platforms.”

“The Wall Street Journal has highlighted persistent dangers to children on social-media platforms in recent years, including how Instagram’s algorithms connect a vast network of pedophiles and how TikTok’s algorithm serves teens weight-loss videos and other concerning content. The industry also faces a wave of lawsuits from people who say they have been harmed by social media and from state attorneys general making similar claims.”


“Groups representing young victims of online harms including social-media addiction and sexual exploitation held media events on Tuesday to help drum up support for lawmakers’ efforts to rein in social-media platforms. One featured the father of a Michigan teenager, Jordan DeMay, who died by suicide after falling victim to an online extortion scheme. John DeMay, Jordan’s father, said he hopes the Senate hearing will bring awareness “that social media is not a safe place, especially for children.” He and his family are considering legal options.”

“But suing the companies for harm to children can be legally difficult. Currently, the platforms often can avoid liability when someone is harmed as a result of social-media use because of special legal protections that Congress created for the platforms in the 1990s when the internet was in its infancy. Those protections generally immunize the platforms from liability for harm from content generated by other users. “

“Durbin and other lawmakers have proposed removing those special legal protections in cases where children are sexually exploited.”

FOX 32 Chicago: Durbin rips big tech, says they're not doing enough to protect children

By: Fox 32 News | January 30, 2024 | [Link]

“Five tech CEOs are set to testify on Wednesday about the crisis of online child sexual exploitation. Ahead of the hearing, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin made clear his disappointment about what big tech companies have done so far.”

“Senator Durbin's speech on the Senate floor Tuesday could be seen as a preview for what's going to happen at the Judiciary Committee hearing tomorrow. He said the new child safety measures some companies launched as recently as last week are long overdue, but don't go far enough.”

CTInsider: At Senate hearing on social media, CEOs will face tough questions from lawmakers

By: Michael Walsh | January 31, 2024 | [Link]

“On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and the rest of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will question the chief executive officers of five big tech companies: Meta, X, TikTok, Snap, and Discord.”


“Blumenthal was there to gather first-hand comments from the students about their experiences using social media — the pros and the cons — which he will take back to Washington, D.C., later this week when he gets his chance to question and hear from Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Linda Yaccarino of X, Shou Zi Chew of TikTok, Evan Spiegel of Snap, and Jason Citron of Discord.”

"It is a critical moment for me," Blumenthal said, adding that the bill was born after initial hearings held with whistleblowers. "People came forward to talk about what they saw inside these companies that the heads of the companies didn't want to tell us. They knew they were doing harm to young people. They knew that they were spreading toxic content about eating disorders and self harm and bullying and suicide. They knew that their algorithms were in effect elevating the affects of that kind of toxic content and they continued because it was making them more money."

NBC News: CEOs of TikTok, Meta, Snap and X to testify at Senate online child safety hearing. Here's what to know.

By: Kalhan Rosenblatt | January 30, 2024 | [Link]

“Senators are expected to grill executives of TikTok, Meta (which owns Instagram and Facebook), Discord, X (formerly Twitter) and Snap about what efforts they have made to help stop the exploitation of kids online.”


“Several parents who say their children died for various reasons connected to social media told NBC News they will be watching from the hearing room. Some of them are suing some of the social media companies whose CEOs will appear Wednesday. ‘The bottom line is that we will never have what we want in this lifetime: our daughter back. So we’re here advocating for change,’ said Tony Roberts, whose daughter died by suicide after, her parents say, she viewed a simulated hanging video on social media.”


“Other bipartisan bills, like the Stop CSAM Act, have also been introduced. It seeks to make it easier for victims of child sexual abuse materials, or CSAM, to ask tech companies to remove such materials. It would also allow victims to sue social media platforms that ‘otherwise knowingly promote or facilitate’ the abuse.”

CNN: Kids aren’t safe on social media, lawmakers say. Tech CEOs are back in DC to pledge (again) that they’ll handle it

By: Brian Fung, Clare Duffy | January 29, 2024 | [Link]

“Congress will again grill the chief executives of several big tech companies this week, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, about potential harms from their products on teens. Until now, the social platforms have largely had the same response: We’ll help teens and families make smart decisions themselves. But now, with growing claims that social media can hurt young users, including worries that it risks driving them to depression or even suicide, online safety advocates say that response falls far short.”


“However, parents and online safety advocacy groups say many of the tools released by social media platforms don’t go far enough — largely leaving the job of protecting teens up to parents and, in some cases, the young users themselves — and that tech platforms can no longer be left to self-regulate.”


“Wednesday’s hearing will mark the first opportunity for lawmakers to probe smaller industry players, like X and Discord, about their youth safety efforts.”

Bloomberg: Social Media CEOs Brace for Senate Spotlight on Child Safety: What to Expect

By: Kurt Wagner, Alex Barinka, Cecilia D’Anastasio | January 30, 2024 | [Link]

“Some of the tech industry’s most prominent and powerful leaders will descend on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a Senate hearing focused on protecting children online.”

“Chief executive officers from Meta Platforms Inc., X (formerly Twitter), Snap Inc., TikTok and Discord will provide testimony and take questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has supported several bills related to kids’ digital safety. Congress has increasingly scrutinized social media platforms as growing evidence suggests that excessive use and the proliferation of harmful content may be damaging young people’s mental health.”

Roll Call: Tech leaders to face Senate panel on sexual exploitation dangers

By: Ryan Tarinelli | January 30, 2024 | [Link]

“Lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee are expected Wednesday to confront technology executives about child sexual exploitation issues on social media, a topic that’s fueled lawmaker alarm and driven bipartisan calls for congressional action. Members of the panel have delivered searing criticism of social media platforms, saying big tech companies have failed to police themselves while children have been left without proper protections online.”


“‘We’re hauling in five Big Tech CEOs for questioning on how to protect kids online,’ the Senate Judiciary Committee account wrote on social media Monday. ‘All of them have had exposés on their issues with child sexual exploitation. They have a MAJOR role to play in addressing this crisis.’”


“The Senate Judiciary Committee has at times been defined by partisan acrimony, but protecting children online has been a point of bipartisan cooperation, with lawmakers from both parties supporting legislation that aims to address the issue.”

The Messenger: TikTok, X, Meta CEOs Face Grilling Over Sexual Exploitation of Kids Online

By: Patrick Cooley | January 29, 2024 | [Link]

“The CEOs of X, TikTok, Meta and other major social media sites will be on the hot seat on Capitol Hill this week when a Senate panel convenes a hearing on their ‘failure’ to protect children from online sexual exploitation.”

“The tech industry is under intense scrutiny as pictures and videos depicting child pornography proliferate online. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline received 31.9 million reports of suspected possession, manufacture or distribution of child pornography online in 2022, 47% more than in 2020.”