Some of the biggest tech companies are being grilled on Wednesday by the US Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”
Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg along with TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, Discord CEO Jason Citron, and X CEO Linda Yaccarino are all on Capitol Hill representing their respective companies. The Senate subpoenaed Spiegel, Citron, and Yaccarino to ensure they would appear.
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Of those who were called to testify, only two have voiced their outright support for one of the biggest proposed pieces of legislation on this topic, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA): Spiegel of Snap, and Yaccarino of X.
However, while KOSA may be presented as a way to keep children safe on the internet, critics have warned that the bill is pro-censorship, can harm children, and will chip away at online privacy.
This particularly makes Yaccarino’s support of KOSA stand out. In short, everything that Elon Musk’s “free speech platform” X claims to supposedly be against.
KOSA is a ‘danger’ to online rights
KOSA is presented as a bill that protects children online. And it enjoys bipartisan support under the auspices that it primarily does that.
But, critics of KOSA, like the online civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have called the proposed law a “huge danger to our rights online.”
Under the proposed legislation, LGBTQ content could be targeted and important self-harm and suicide prevention material could be blocked from youth who need these resources. Furthermore, online privacy for everyone would erode as users would be required to provide age verification documents to access certain platforms or content.
Yaccarino voices support for KOSA
The platform once known as Twitter has changed dramatically since Elon Musk acquired it. Besides the name change to X, perhaps the biggest shift has been the type of users and content allowed on the platform. For example, there has been a noticeable uptick reported in white supremacist posts and anti-trans rhetoric on X.
This clearly contrasts with Yaccarino’s words at the Senate hearing though.
“We support KOSA” said Yaccarino when asked directly if she supported the bill.
“[We] will continue to make sure that it accelerates and make sure it continues to offer community to teens that are seeking that voice,” the X CEO continued. This mirrored her earlier testimony at the hearing when she said that KOSA “should progress” and that the company would “continue to engage on it to ensure it protects free speech.”
Zuckerberg and TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew butted heads with Senators when asked about KOSA, making it clear they did not support the legislation as it is.
In Yaccarino’s testimony at the Senate hearing, she also claimed that X isn’t “the platform of choice for children and teens.” Indeed, there are more popular social media platforms among kids and younger people like TikTok or Instagram. However, there are still children on X.
“We will always do everything we can to keep children and minors safe,” Yaccarino posted on X on Jan. 27, alongside a new report from the company on how it’s dealing with child exploitation on the platform. This update from the company was released just days before the Senate hearing.
While X may be taking a supportive position toward legislation like KOSA in an effort to live up to Yaccarino’s words and protect children, the company and its owner’s own actions don’t always reflect those stated intentions. After layoffs to its trust and safety team, researchers found that X had a growing child exploitation problem on the platform. In addition, the content policies of X removed protections for transgender users — including trans youth — on the X platform.
And, as for Musk himself, the X owner has intervened personally in the past to reinstate the account of a far-right-wing user who posted what Musk referred to as “child exploitation photos” on X.
Some of the biggest tech companies, including Meta (formerly Facebook), TikTok, Snap, Discord, and X (formerly Twitter), are facing scrutiny from the US Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” The CEOs of these companies, including Mark Zuckerberg, Shou Zi Chew, Evan Spiegel, Jason Citron, and Linda Yaccarino, are representing their respective companies on Capitol Hill. While only two of the CEOs, Spiegel and Yaccarino, have expressed support for the proposed Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), critics argue that the bill is pro-censorship and can harm children while eroding online privacy. Yaccarino’s support for KOSA is particularly notable, given that X positions itself as a “free speech platform.” Critics, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have labeled KOSA a “huge danger to our rights online” as it could target LGBTQ content and block self-harm prevention material. Yaccarino’s support for KOSA contrasts with the content moderation policies on X, which have allowed white supremacist posts and anti-trans rhetoric. While Zuckerberg and TikTok’s Chew expressed their lack of support for KOSA during the hearing, Yaccarino claimed that X is not the platform of choice for children and teens, although there are still children on the platform. Despite Yaccarino’s statements and X’s efforts to protect children, the company has faced criticism for its handling of child exploitation cases and the removal of protections for transgender users. Elon Musk, the owner of X, has also personally intervened to reinstate the account of a user who posted “child exploitation photos” on the platform.