On January 31, a US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing took place that gave Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham and other Republican Senators a chance to grandstand on an issue and the problem of social media and kids. The title of the hearing was “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis” but the topics touched on were wide-ranging. In addition to discussing the harms to children and teens via social media platforms that have been well documented, senators repeatedly raised the issue of Section 230, the part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that has historically shielded social media platforms from legal liability for the content posted by their users. Being grilled at the hearing were Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, TikTok CEO Shou Chew, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, and Discord CEO Jason Citron. Hours of remarks by senators and questions to the CEOs were made.
Internal emails from Meta, which have been previously reported on and which were brought up by the senators, show that Zuckerberg appeared to rebuff calls to bolster the safeguards for children and teens. And in one 2022 exchange with Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, Zuckerberg appeared to ignore a suggestion to hire 45 new employees dedicated to safety issues and well-being of users across Meta’s apps. Clegg followed up months later with Zuckerberg with a trimmed-down proposal for 25 new hires, saying this was “the bare minimum needed to meet basic policymaker inquiries” on child welfare issues.
Republican Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn had a dramatic exchange with Zuckerberg in which she raised a dollar figure that was found in internal Meta documents which put a “lifetime” valuation on each teen user of Meta’s apps at $270. Senator Blackburn said this:
“How could you possibly even have that thought? It is astounding to me. … Children are not your priority. Children are your product.”
Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana said that social media platforms had become “a killing field of information” with algorithms that have been developed “to punch people’s hot buttons.” After being berated by Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, Zuckerberg stood up in the hearing room to face families of kids who have died in connection with their social media use. Zuckerberg said this:
“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invest so much and we are going to continue doing industry wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.”
Senator Lindsey Graham, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, was the most pointed and dramatic in his remarks. Graham said this discussing the harms to children and teens via social media platforms to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and X CEO Linda Yaccarino, TikTok CEO Shou Chew, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, and Discord CEO Jason Citron:
“I am tired of talking. I’m tired of having discussions. Open up the courthouse door. Until you do that, nothing will change. Until these people can be sued for the damage they’re doing, it is all talk. … Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us, I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands. You have a product that’s killing people.”
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
You would hope Republicans like Lindsay Graham, Marsha Blackburn, John Kennedy and Josh Hawley would feel just as strong about the “blood on the hands of gun manufactures” who are actually manufacturing products that are killing people. You would think they would demand apologies from gun manufactures to the families and the parents of all the children killed in mass school shootings. Instead, they are in the pockets of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as they accept millions and millions in campaign donations each year and oppose any and all reasonable gun control measures. What a pack of immoral tools these Republicans clowns are.