Senators grill YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat about safety of kids

Members of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection went right at representatives today from TikTok, Snapchat, and Google, the parent company of YouTube, on Tuesday.

"You cannot trust big tech with your kids. Parents of America cannot trust these apps," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, the panel's chairman.

"Kids as young as 9 have died doing viral challenges on TikTok and we've seen teen girls lured into inappropriate sexual relationships with predators on Snapchat," Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, said. "You're parents — how can you allow this?"

TikTok has 1 billion active monthly users, Snapchat has 500 million, and YouTube has 2 billion.

"We need stronger rules to protect children online," Blumenthal said. 

Congress is now considering at least two bills that would hold social media companies accountable for how they direct content to children and teens.

"The challenges are complex but we are determined to work hard and keep the platforms safe and create age-appropriate experiences," Michael Beckerman, an executive with TikTok, said at the hearing.

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"Between April and June of this year, we removed nearly 1.8 million videos for violations of our child safety policies," YouTube executive Leslie Miller testified.

This hearing followed recent testimony from a Facebook whistleblower who said Facebook is knowingly targeting kids and teens with toxic content because it makes money.

Another former Facebook employee, Yael Eisenstat, told FOX 5 NY that she was hired in 2018 to deal with election integrity issues.

"A lot of questions I was asking about, 'Should we be fact-checking political ads? Should we be considering the targeting tools we're giving to politicians to target us with different speech? Should we consider some of the harms in potential voter suppression that we're allowing to happen?'" Eisenstat said. "I was basically pushed out within six months."

"This is for Big Tech a big tobacco moment ... It is a moment of reckoning," Blumenthal said. "There will be accountability. This time is different."