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Legislation should be passed to protect children online

(NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Bill Ingalls | Flickr

The chief executive officers of leading social media platforms were brought to the Senate on Jan. 31 to testify about the harm their platforms pose to American children. Although there was several to discuss, there needs to be more restrictions that protect children on these platforms.

CEOs of TikTok, Snapchat, X, Meta and Discord came to Congress, in what Senator Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, referred to as an “annual flogging,” to address the ongoing threat that exponentially increasing technological advancement has had on the country.

The goal of the hearing was to ask the CEOs whether they have been doing enough to protect children on the platforms.

“The door is open. We’ve got all these bills… Each and every one of you need to come to the table, and you need to work with us. Kids are dying,” Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee said, addressing Meta CEO Mark  Zuckerberg first, and then opening her statement to X CEO Linda Yaccarino, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel and Discord CEO Jason Citron.

While each of these industry titans batted away questions with assurances of “looking into them” and “making changes in the future,” they were hesitant to fully support bills like the Kid’s Online Safety Act, which would require social media platforms to take “reasonable measures” to prevent online bullying, harassment, predatory marketing and other possible harm.

Snapchat is excluded from this since Spiegel supported the bill that moderates children’s recommendations of harmful content, such as those that pertain to eating disorders or suicide.

Senator Jon Ossoff, D-Georgia, told Zuckerberg, “We have to acknowledge these basic truths…the internet is dangerous.” Sexual abuse, drugs and mentally damaging content is readily available to minors on these websites and Congress calls on the companies to provide safeguards for its users under 18.

The families of the victims of these dangers sat behind the CEOs during the hearing and felt the glaring heat of responsibility to regulate this content before it could take the lives of more children and teens.

The goal of these platforms is not to irreversibly damage teens, as seen by their attempts at regulation, including Meta’s changes to legislation for parental approval of apps, Snapchat’s expansion of in-app parental tools and X’s launch of a new trust and safety center, which brings 100 content moderators to the platform.

However, the goal of these platforms is to increase user engagement and bring in more revenue. “Adding, retaining, and engaging existing users” Senator Ossoff quoted Zuckerberg, referring to the future goals of Meta when addressing shareholders. One of these goals outweighs the other for a CEO and Congress has now pushed them to reconsider.

The dangers that kids could be exposed to with just a device and internet connection used to be a hypothetical prediction. Now, it’s a reality. The only path forward is to regulate children’s online space quickly. At the opening of the hearing, Senator John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, asked “Is our technology greater than our humanity?” It is time to find out.

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