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Facebook Braces For Bipartisan Senate Grilling

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Republican and Democrat senators are getting ready to grill social media giant Facebook over the platform’s impact on kids’ health and privacy. In a rare instance, the bipartisan effort aims to question the safety of the youth, an issue that was already brought up in past congressional hearings with Big Tech executives. Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, will be the focal point in this battle as he awaits questioning from the senators.

“This decision is a step in the right direction. We have been calling on Big Tech to be more transparent so parents can make informed decisions about their children’s social media use. Our children’s mental health is worth fighting for and we will continue that fight,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee tweeted earlier this week.

Recently, the congress has been targeting social media companies for their negative impact on the mental health of teens and their relentless efforts to pursue younger users. Facebook is said to have created a team that will study preteens, in order for them to accommodate an untapped audience aged 10 to 12 years old.

Instagram, another popular social media platform owned by Facebook, has paused its controversial plan to launch a version specifically made for kids. The photo-sharing app does not allow users under 13, although age can easily be faked to get on the platform.

“Facebook’s decision to pause ‘Instagram Kids’ is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safe environment, but there is still much work to be done. Big Tech’s pattern of choosing profit over the wellbeing of young users is extremely concerning, and we must hold them accountable,” stated GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a ranking member of the consumer protection subcommittee.

A group of Democrats consisting of Sen. Ed Markey (Mass.),  subcommittee Chairman Richard Blumenthal, Reps. Lori Trahan (Mass.) and Kathy Castor (Fla.) have proposed a bill that will ban certain features that could be harmful for kids. The bill, which is similar to GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy’s proposal, aims to strengthen the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know that Congress must step in. That’s why we will be re-introducing the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which will give young internet users the protections they need to navigate today’s online ecosystem without sacrificing their wellbeing. We urge our colleagues to join us in this effort and pass this critical legislation,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

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