TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat under Fire

Following the disclosure of internal studies indicating that Instagram may hurt teenagers, the social media titans began drawing analogies between themselves and Facebook.

Republican legislators, in particular those who brought up TikTok’s Chinese ownership, were particularly harsh in their criticisms throughout the session.

As part of their hearing, US senators quizzed CEOs from companies such as YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat on their efforts to keep young users safe on their platforms.

Legislators also sought the backing of CEOs for laws strengthening child protection on social media, citing the damage that vulnerable young people may suffer from the platforms, ranging from eating disorders to exposure to sexually explicit content and information encouraging addictive substances. However, they were met with a lack of strong support.

When a former Facebook data scientist spoke to the committee recently, the findings showed that the company’s Instagram photo-sharing service seemed to gravely hurt certain kids, the subcommittee listened intently. 

The panel is broadening the scope of its inquiry to include other Internet platforms, such as social media, that vie for the attention and devotion of young people.

According to Senator Edward Markey, during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on consumer protection, “the issue is clear: Big Tech preys on children and teenagers in order to earn more money.”

Senator Richard Blumenthal, the panel’s chairman, said, “We’re hearing the same tales of devastation” caused by YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

“This is a major tobacco moment for Big Tech… He described it as a “time of reckoning.” “Accountability will be implemented.”Things are going to be different this time.”

Therefore, Markey asked the three executives, Michael Beckerman, a TikTok vice president and head of public policy for the Americas; Leslie Miller, vice president for government affairs and public policy at Google; and Jennifer Stout, vice president for global public policy at Snap Inc., if they would support his bipartisan legislation that would grant new privacy rights to children and ban targeted ads and video autoplay for kids.

Markey spent a long time trying to get the CEOs to pledge their support, but they refused to do so by asserting that their platforms already adhere to the suggested constraints. During the drafting of the legislation, they stated they wanted to engage with legislators.

For Markey and Blumenthal, this was a traditional Washington lobbying game at a time when social media and the internet sector were in turmoil, not good enough. Blumenthal informed them, “This is the rhetoric we’ve seen time and time again.”It is “meaningless” to express support for legislative aims in a generic fashion without concrete backing, he said.

TikTok’s community guidelines prohibit the posting of explicit material, according to Beckerman. To assist young people and parents in monitoring how much time their children spend on the app and what they view, TikTok has put features like screen-time management in place, according to him.

Because of this, certain functions, such as direct messaging, will be unavailable to children under the age of 13. 

The Chinese business ByteDance owns the video platform, which is very popular among teenagers and younger children. Approximately 1 billion people utilize it each month and have done so in just five years since its introduction.

Earlier this year, after being ordered to do so by federal authorities, TikTok updated its privacy rules for young users under 18.

In its maiden appearance before Congress, TikTok was roundly slammed by conservative Republican members, who drew attention to the company’s Chinese ownership. There is a backup location in Singapore where the business claims it keeps all of the user’s TikTok US data.

TikTok, according to Beckerman, “actually captures less data than many of our contemporaries.”

Senator Ted Cruz admitted to Beckerman that he evaded questioning more than any other witness in Congress’s history.

“We may share all of the information we gather with a parent, subsidiary, or another member of our business group,” says TikTok’s privacy policy. They wanted to know whether ByteDance was included in the definition of “other affiliate” and what it meant for Chinese access to data.

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