TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube are the latest tech giants to be questioned by US senators about the safety concerns of their younger users.
During nearly four hours of interrogation on Monday, they tried to differentiate themselves from Facebook, which has faced increasing scrutiny from politicians in recent months.
But he was told: “Being different from Facebook is not a defense.
“That bar is in the gutter. It’s no defense to say you’re different.”
In his opening remarks, Senator Richard Blumenthal added, “We are hearing the same stories of damage.
“The problem is clear: big technology preys on children and teenagers to make more money
“All you do is add users, especially children, and keep them in your apps.
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“This is a great moment of tobacco for great technology.
“It’s a time of reckoning.
“There will be responsibility – this time it’s different.”
Facebook, accused of harming the mental well-being of children, has faced increasing demands for regulation.
But Snapchat told senators it didn’t belong in the same category.
“Snapchat was created as an antidote to social media,” said Jennifer Stout, Snap’s vice president of global public policy.
“In fact, we call ourselves a camera company.”
TikTok’s chief of public policy Michael Beckerman, meanwhile, said at the hearing: “TikTok is not a follower-based social network.
“Look at TikToks, you create them.”
But TikTok was accused by its algorithm of delivering harmful content to its teen users, such as weight loss videos or dangerous pranks.
The hearing follows Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s paper leaked to the Wall Street Journal, which includes claims that the parent company was aware of the “toxic” impact Instagram was having on teenage girls.
He said Facebook research had described a problem as “an addict’s narrative” – where children were unhappy but couldn’t control their use of the app or feel like they could stop using it.
But Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the platform has made efforts to combat malicious content.
“We care a lot about issues like safety, well-being and mental health,” he said in a letter posted on his Facebook page.
“It’s hard to see a cover that misrepresents our work and our motivations.”
Senators also have growing concerns about both censorship and the spread of disinformation.
And some say legislation protecting social networks from being sued – known as Section 230 – needs to be revised.
Originally seen as a way to protect internet providers like BT or Comcast, it has become the primary shield for huge sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which cannot review every post from their users prior to publication.
However, many US politicians say the legislation is outdated and that social networks need to be held accountable.
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