Senate Commerce subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, on Tuesday opened a hearing on social media platforms and their effects on children by comparing the possible harm of “Big Tech” to tobacco companies.
“Like big tobacco, big tech has lured teens despite knowing its product is harmful,” said Blumenthal. The senator added, “There are differences, big tech is not irredeemably bad.”
Three executives — Michael Beckerman, a TikTok vice president and head of public policy for the Americas; Leslie Miller, vice president for government affairs and public policy of YouTube’s owner Google; and Jennifer Stout, vice president for global public policy of Snapchat parent Snap Inc. — are facing questions on what their companies are doing to ensure young users’ safety.
The Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection is fresh off a highly charged hearing with a former Facebook data scientist, who laid out internal company research showing that the company’s Instagram photo-sharing service appears to seriously harm some teens.
The panel is widening its focus to examine other tech platforms, with millions or billions of users, that also compete for young people’s attention.
Blumenthal said that while TikTok, Youtube and Snapchat may be different than Facebook, this was not sufficient. “Being different from Facebook is not a defense. That bar is in the gutter.We do not want a race to the bottom, we want a race to the top,” said Blumenthal.
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