Speed Reads

'race to the bottom'

Democratic senator tells tech executives being 'different from Facebook' isn't enough: 'That bar is in the gutter'

Executives from TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat faced questions during a congressional hearing Tuesday about how they're protecting children online, and one lawmaker declared it's not enough to just be different from Facebook. 

Members of a Senate Commerce Committee panel questioned executives from the social media platforms Tuesday, as Facebook receives growing scrutiny over a whistleblower's allegations that it has put profits over users' safety. At the start of the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) argued that TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat similarly prioritize keeping users, especially children, on its apps longer. 

"I understand from your testimony that your defense is, 'We're not Facebook. We're different, and we're different from each other,'" Blumenthal said. "Being different from Facebook is not a defense. That bar is in the gutter. ... What we want is not a race to the bottom, but really a race to the top." 

The tech executives defended the steps they've taken to protect children. But lawmakers had tough questions for them, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asking TikTok about reporting that its "algorithm can push young users into content glorifying eating disorders, drugs, violence," The Wall Street Journal reports. TikTok's Michael Beckerman said the company has "made a number of improvements to the way that people have control of the algorithm and have age-appropriate content on TikTok." 

At one point, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also slammed an executive from Snap for not saying whether the company would support legislation pertaining to children's online privacy. "This is just what drives us crazy," he said. "We want to talk, we want to talk, we want to talk.' This bill's been out there for years, and you still don't have a view on it." 

Blumenthal argued there must be "stronger rules to protect children online," and in light of the recent Facebook whistleblower testimony, he vowed there "will be accountability" because "this time is different."