Online child safety is an ever-growing concern that the US Senate has raised again with Meta, X, and other tech giants. See what the Senate discussed with them.
Did you know around 48% of underage children on social media apps belong to the age range of 3-4 years? Did you also know that 21% of those children reported receiving at least one sexually explicit message, image, or video in their lifetime? Technology evolution shapes various aspects of our lives, with social media ruling in terms of maximum impact on children and youth. The impact, however, is not positive and is consistently influencing the mental behavior patterns of underage children.
The US Senate has raised its voice against the underlying child safety concerns on social media applications. More than 105 million online images, videos, and materials related to child sexual abuse were flagged in 2023 and reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It brought the Chief Executive Officers of Meta, X, TikTok, and 2 other tech giant leaders to question them about identified concerns. The main problem discussed was the alleged ignorance of social media platforms towards moderating content for children. In a heated 3.5-hour-long hearing, the Senate’s lawmakers repeatedly bashed the tech giants for prioritizing profits over safety.
Some said the companies had “blood on their hands” and that users “would die waiting” for them to make changes to protect children. At one point, lawmakers compared the tech companies to cigarette makers. “Every parent in America is terrified about the garbage that is directed at our kids,” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said.
The boom of Generative AI and the rapidly growing integration of its capabilities on the social media platforms owned by these tech giants has given a new direction to the underlying problem. The parents, families, and close friends of the children deceased or exploited attended the hearing to raise their voices. The White House came forward with undeniable evidence against the social media platforms and asked for clear responses without vague expressions.
The bipartisan hearing conveyed the concerns that came from historical data and parents of the online predatory victims. They blamed the social media platforms for fueling and ignoring the ongoing cyberbullying and pedophile interactions. They also claimed that the platforms were responsible for multiple children’s suicides.
The CEOs of 5 social giants came forward with their answers and shared their grievances for the social media victims. They explained that the platforms were improving safety measures, especially for children. The issue has united Republicans and Democrats, further increasing the pressure on the tech platforms to bring new measures regarding online safety for children. Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, told the Senate that the platform has never facilitated or supported any such act and is creating stricter regulations for underage content exposure and interactions with strangers.
Meta’s executives have testified 33 times since 2017 over issues much bigger and more acute than the online risk for children, but no concrete action has been taken on them yet. None of the testimonies or hearings have given birth to any new regulation directly impacting the action of the platforms. It is highly unlikely that any action would be taken after this hearing as well, as the leaders of the social media platforms almost successfully evaded the allegations with their side of the story.