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5 Tech CEOs Face Congressional Scrutiny Once More. Manage Expectations for the Outcome

5 Tech CEOs Face Congressional Scrutiny Once More. Manage Expectations for the Outcome
Credits: ClickOnDetroit

The CEOs of five major social media platforms, including Mark Zuckerberg from Meta and Linda Yaccarino from X, are set to appear before the Senate on Wednesday for a hearing addressing the persistent issue of child se*xual abuse material on their platforms. Members of Congress, who have long raised concerns about this issue without reaching a consensus on a solution, will be scrutinizing the CEOs.

Despite multiple bills, high-profile hearings, and advocacy from President Joe Biden in his recent State of the Union addresses, Congress has only managed to pass one child safety law related to online child se*x traff**cking in the past decade. Subsequent attempts to pass comprehensive legislation have been hindered by disagreements over security and privacy provisions, as well as strong opposition from the tech industry.

5 Tech CEOs Face Congressional Scrutiny Once More. Manage Expectations for the Outcome

Tech CEOs testify to Congress (Credits: Fox News)

Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, the largest kids’ advocacy group in the nation, expressed disappointment, saying, “I’ve had hope for the last decade that Congress would do something, but they’ve pretty much struck out.”

This upcoming hearing will be Zuckerberg’s eighth appearance, and it will also mark the debut appearances of Yaccarino, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, and Discord CEO Jason Citron, all of whom were subpoenaed. All five platforms led by these CEOs are widely used by teenagers.

The hearing aims to generate support for a legislative package championed by Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, which includes the STOP CSAM Act, lifting legal protections for tech companies to allow victims of child exploitation to sue them.

Durbin, a former trial lawyer, believes that a high-profile Senate hearing can make a difference. He stated, “I can tell you that there’s nothing like the prospect of being called into court to testify about decisions you’ve made.”

Despite the attention surrounding these hearings, past legislative efforts tied to tech-related hearings have consistently failed. Durbin’s legislative package includes bills authored years ago, such as the EARN IT Act from Lindsey Graham, which has not advanced to a floor vote in the past three Congresses.

Another bill, the Kids Online Safety Act, introduced twice, has not received a floor vote despite moving out of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Since the announcement of Wednesday’s hearing in November, there have been indications that the industry’s staunch opposition may be cracking. Snap recently expressed support for the Kids Online Safety Act, becoming the first company to publicly endorse it.

Lawmakers are likely to pressure other platforms to follow suit. However, as of now, the other platforms scheduled to testify have not publicly supported the bill.

X (formerly Twitter) is reportedly in active conversations about the Kids Online Safety Act but has not endorsed it. Yaccarino from X has been meeting with senators, discussing AI, copyright, and the Kids Online Safety Act.

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