Big Tech “Protecting Children” Just a Front?

Big Tech “Protecting Children” Just a Front - Encounter Today - Blog

Big Tech CEOs have gone before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify and hear the various concerns over social media’s negative impacts on young people.

The Committee heard recorded testimony from youth and adults. The concerns raised stemmed from the significant roles in which social media played in young people’s lives, from the eating disorders to the anxiety they face.

“They’re [big tech companies] responsible for many of the dangers our children face online,” Chair of the Senate Committee Dick Durbin said, “Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk.”

Whilst it’s a good thing that these issues are being discussed, one can’t help but wonder what’s really going on. Why, seemingly all of a sudden, is the Senate Judiciary Committee wanting to talk about the dangers of social media in the lives of children and teens when they (politicians and big tech CEOs) have known about the dangers of it for so long?

Something tells me, from the politicians to the advocates to the tech CEOs present, these people weren’t really there seeking credible ways to protect children but rather, to use this as an opportunity to exploit people’s desire to protect kids in order to roll in a new layer of censorship.

Is it a stretch? Only time will tell. Is it plausible? Based upon our politicians track record, absolutely.

After the CEO of Meta Mark Zuckerburg apologized to families who had been negatively impacted by social media, he stated that Meta would continue to work to bring forward “industry wide efforts” to protect children.

One article we read on this Senate hearing made the statement that “time and time again, children’s advocates and parents have stressed that none of the companies are doing enough.” But is this solely an industry issue or is it a parental issue?

One testimony of a teenage girl going from healthy to anorexic and how social media helped facilitate the disorder was played at the hearing. Tech companies were blamed for the development of the disorder but that doesn’t address the root issue this girl was experiencing. Where were her parents and what was the root issue that caused this girl to take such radical actions? This isn’t to lay blame upon her parents, this question is meant to help us be more intentional in seeking answers whilst we watch others lay blame upon an easy target – big tech.

During the hearing, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham shared Senator Durbin’s sentiments saying he’s prepared to work with Democrats to solve the issue. This is of particular interest. No one in Congress or in the Senate can seem to agree on anything. Not the border wall. Not on the definition of what a woman is. But on limiting harm caused by Big Tech? There is consensus. Interesting, is it not?

We must ask ourselves, what is the track record of governments who seek to eliminate harm in the public square, whether it be in public or the new public square which is online? Will governments start banning specific speech online? Will this be the action taken to resolve these issues or is censorship the actual intention behind these Senate hearings?

I mean, who wouldn’t want to protect children from online harms? But also, who would dare to question politicians using the limitation of harm towards children as a cover for ushering in more censorship in quite possibly the biggest election year of the last several decades?

I will.

The hearings themselves hold validity within them. There is a huge issue with harm and crimes being committed through social media, but there is something so off with the timing of this hearing.

“After years of working on this issue with you and others, I’ve come to conclude the following: Social media companies as they’re currently designed and operate are dangerous products,” Graham said.

Throughout the hearing, several tech executives touted existing safety tools on their platforms and the work they’ve done with nonprofits and law enforcement to protect minors.

Several States have sued Meta for design features that intentionally draw users into its platforms whilst New Mexico filed a separate lawsuit saying the company has failed to protect them from online predators.

Emails released by Senator Blumenthal’s office reveal that Meta’s president of global affairs, Nick Clegg and others, asked Mark Zuckerberg for more personnel to be brought onto the team to help strengthen “wellbeing across the company.”

The email also shows Clegg stating that, “From a policy perspective, this work has become increasingly urgent over recent months. Politicians in the U.S., U.K., E.U. and Australia are publicly and privately expressing concerns about the impact of our products on young people’s mental health.”

It is yet to be determined what the Senate Committee will do or propose to address the concerns raised in this hearing.


It’s all too coincidental. Social media companies have known about the threats that children face on their platforms from the early years of their being used by the public. So why do all these companies now feel the urge and supposed “need” to deal with this issue? Could it be that it’s because this is arguably the most significant election year globally with more than 50 countries headed to the polls?

We all know there are multiple avenues of harm online that children could and do come across – and whilst tech companies should be seeking to protect the vulnerable in society from them, when do parents come into the equation of protecting their children?

The reliance on government or industry leaders to bring solutions or fix societal issues needs to end.

Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. Big tech companies have a lot to do with the facilitation of harmful content being hosted on their platform and how specific content on them is shared, but at some point, parents have to shoulder some of the responsibility. No, I am not a defender of Big Tech but I am a contender for accountability and responsibility.

We need a resurgence of parental responsibility on this front and many others. Those in politics and industry have their responsibilities in this area but so do parents as well.

After working in politics for years, I’ve learned that to every agenda there are multiple motives and my hope is that through this article, you will start to look at issues and headlines on a different level so that we won’t be so easily swayed in the future.


CLICK HERE for more posts by Mattea Merta.

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Mattea Merta

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Tags: News
Tags: Mark Zuckerburg, Meta, Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lindsay Graham,

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