Big Tech

Big Tech Won’t Police Itself

8 November 2021

1.5 MINS

Despite many grillings in Congress, the heads of Big Tech companies are doing little to protect children online. There is no other way: tough legislation is now required.

The problems with social media, like harming minors with sexual content, won’t fix themselves, especially with the CEO’s ignoring them.

Ruth Institute President Dr Jennifer Roback Morse charged social media companies like TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube with being “wildly disingenuous.”

“Whenever they’re called before Congress, they claim they’re doing their utmost to protect minors from sexual content. But their protestations are meaningless,” Morse said.

Indifference From Big Tech

At last week’s hearing before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, executives of the three social media giants were grilled by sceptical senators on both sides of the aisle about these problems with social media.

Morse remarked: “It’s rare when Republicans and Democrats can get together on anything. But they agreed about the seeming indifference of High Tech when it comes to protecting minors from corrupting influences.”

Utah Senator Mike Lee revealed that his staff had set up a Snapchat account for a fictitious 15-year-old. Someone that age is supposed to be protected from ads and content with sexual content. But the fictional teen’s page included invitations to play online sexualised video games, articles by porn stars and ‘helpful hints’ for visiting bars. Lee said the content could most politely be described as “wildly inappropriate for a child.”

A Moment of Reckoning for Social Media

When faced with concrete evidence of negligence or wrongdoing, representatives of these companies have a routine response. Michael Beckerman, Head of Public Policy at TikTok America, said, “Sex and drugs are violations of our community standards; they have no place on our site.”

Morse replied: “Big deal. Despite TikTok’s solemn disavowals, the content is there for anyone to see. What is TikTok doing about it? Nothing.”

Calling it “Big Tech’s… moment of reckoning,” Senator Edward Markey (D. MA) asked the executives if they would support bipartisan legislation that would give minors more privacy rights and ban ads and targeted video autoplay for children. All three equivocated.

“Could their insincerity be any more obvious?” Morse asked. “This hearing proves, as if further proof was necessary, that this is an industry unable or unwilling to police itself. Bring on the bi-partisan legislation.”

Originally published at the Ruth Institute. Image by McKaela Taylor on Unsplash.

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