Mark Zuckerberg and CEOs of TikTok, X to testify in Senate on online danger to children

The leaders of Facebook, TikTok and X will testify at a congressional hearing in January on digital danger to children, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Wednesday. 

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook’s parent company Meta, is set to appear at the committee hearing alongside TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, and Linda Yaccarino, who oversees X, formerly called Twitter. The top executives behind the tech platforms Snapchat and Discord will also participate in the Jan. 31 forum.

Lawmakers have social media platforms in their crosshairs over the tech tools’ alleged harms, including surfacing content spurring mental health issues and enabling predators’ sexual advances aimed at children.

Judiciary committee leaders said the social media CEOs are reluctant to appear, but the time to talk has arrived. Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said they anticipated the social media titans would be hesitant around the lawmakers’ efforts. 

“They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids,” Mr. Durbin and Mr. Graham said in a statement. “Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs. Parents and kids demand action.” 

Mr. Durbin said earlier this month that he sent subpoenas to Snap, Snapchat’s parent company; X and Discord. He and Mr. Graham said Wednesday that some companies initially refused to accept a subpoena. 

Representatives from Snap and Discord previously told The Washington Times they were cooperating with the Judiciary Committee and appreciated the opportunity to share their testimony. 

“Keeping our users safe, especially young people, is central to everything we do at Discord,” a Discord spokesperson said earlier this month. “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.”

Mr. Durbin and Mr. Graham said Wednesday that Discord was difficult to deal with, and the duo said the U.S. Marshals Service was involved in attempting to serve the congressional subpoena at Discord’s office. 

The chilly relationship between the lawmakers and CEOs is unlikely to thaw before the winter hearing. 

Former Facebook employee Arturo Bejar told the Judiciary Committee earlier this month that his former bosses knew about social media’s danger to children but failed to stop problems such as bullying and unwanted sexual advances. 

In response to Mr. Bejar’s accusations, Facebook’s parent company Meta said it was working to keep children safe. Meta said in November that it worked with parents and experts to produce more than 30 tools to support families and teens in having safe online experiences.

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