Several tech CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, Linda Yaccarino of X (formerly known as Twitter) and Shou Zi Chew of TikTok are set to testify before Congress in January about online safety for children.
“When we held out first hearing on protecting children online with experts and advocates earlier this year, Big Tech griped about not getting an invitation. We promised them that their time would come,” U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham wrote in a Wednesday statement.
The entire group of witnesses includes Zuckerberg, Yaccarino, Zi Chou, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Discord CEO Jason Citron.
The news comes just a year after the Senate sent U.S. Marshals to serve Yaccarino, Evan Spiegel of Snap and Jason Citron of Discord with subpoenas following weeks of negotiations to have them testify at a hearing on online safety for children took place. The group was scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is overseen by Chair Sen. Dick Durbin, on Dec. 6, 2022.
“When they were offered their chance to testify, some companies outright refused to make their CEOs available. Several companies initially refused to accept a subpoena. The U.S. Marshals Service even attempted to serve the subpoena at Discord’s office. Both actions are remarkable departures from typical practice,” Durbin and Graham said.
This will be the first time Shou Zi will make an appearance before the U.S. since having to answer to the backlash it received for seemingly including damaging content for children on the platform. Meta’s faced similar pushback in the past for sharing videos and posts that could negatively impact children’s mental health. The company event halted the development Instagram Kids after parents, child advocates and politicians spoke out against it over its potential effects on children and teens’ mental health in November 2021.
During the hearing the committee is expected to question the CEOs about their history related to online children protections, as well as their performance in doing so.
“We’ve known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech,” Durbin and Graham said. “They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids. Now that all five companies are cooperating, we look forward to hearing from their CEOs. Parents and kids demand action.”