Senators Press Facebook To Address Harm To Children, Sex Trafficking • CDN


  • Members of the Senate Commerce Committee grilled Facebook in a hearing Thursday, pressing the tech giant to address the harms its platforms have on children and urging the passage of legislation.
  • “Facebook has shown us, once again, that it is incapable of holding itself accountable,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “I don’t know how Facebook can deny it’s exploiting kids for its own profits.”
  • Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn pushed Facebook on how it handles sex trafficking on its platform, referencing one of the leaked documents which showed that it was failing to address “content used to coerce women into slavery.”
  • Committee members were in unanimous agreement that Facebook could no longer be trusted to police itself, and strong legislation was needed.

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee grilled Facebook in a hearing Thursday, pressing the tech giant to address the harms its platforms have on children and urging the passage of legislation.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, respectively the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, interrogated Facebook Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis on the steps it was taking to protect children online. The hearing follows a series of revelations published by The Wall Street Journal detailing internal Facebook research into the harmful effects its subsidiary Instagram has on teen users, and its lack of action to address these harms.

“Facebook has shown us, once again, that it is incapable of holding itself accountable,” Blumenthal said. “I don’t know how Facebook can deny it’s exploiting kids for its own profits.”

Blumenthal and Blackburn are currently leading an investigation into Facebook’s knowledge of its platforms’ harms with the help of a whistleblower who leaked thousands of internal documents to the senators. The Thursday hearing marked an escalation in congressional scrutiny as lawmakers demanded answers and action from Facebook, who has so far refused to fully cooperate.

Blumenthal asked Davis to commit to fully disclosing all of Facebook’s research into its harms, but Davis refused, claiming the full extent of the company’s research was not relevant. Blumenthal disagreed.

“This research is a bombshell,” Blumenthal said. “It is powerful, gripping, riveting evidence that Facebook knows of the harmful effects of its site on children, and that it has concealed those facts and findings.”

Davis disputed the lawmakers’ characterization of Facebook’s research findings, arguing that Instagram was a net positive for the mental health of teen users.

“We’ve found that more teen girls find Instagram helpful than not,” she said.

Blackburn pushed Facebook on how it handles sex trafficking on its platform, referencing one of the leaked documents which showed that Facebook was failing to address “content used to coerce women into slavery.”

“You knew this was there, but you didn’t do anything about it,” Blackburn said.

Committee members were in unanimous agreement that Facebook could no longer be trusted to police itself, and strong legislation was needed. Lawmakers also pushed Facebook for more transparency into its algorithms, asking for independent researchers to be allowed access to study the platform, and for Facebook to release more data on the effects of its platform.

“You’ve lost the trust, and we do not trust you with influencing our children, with reading in to our children’s minds,” Blackburn said.

“You see kids with multiple Instagram accounts as ‘unique value propositions,’” Blumenthal said, quoting Facebook’s research findings. “You make money when kids deceive their parents. How can parents trust you?”

However, lawmakers were short on solutions. Democratic Sen. Ed Markey offered the most substantial legislative proposal of the hearing, announcing he was reintroducing the KIDS Act, a piece of legislation designed to curb exploitative and predatory marketing to children online.

Markey, along with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, also pressed Facebook on its business model and monetization of younger users, accusing the tech giant of exploiting the well-being of children for profit and pressing for answers on when the company planned to restart work on its paused ‘Instagram Kids’ platform targeted at users under the age of 13.

“IG stands for Instagram, but it also stands for Insta Greed,” Markey said.

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