Parents Move Washington On Big Tech

Steve Rosenbaum
3 min readFeb 3, 2024

Senate hearings are often “kabuki theater,“ as explained by a friend of mine who has been to many of them. But it may just be that yesterday‘s hearings were different.

The five-hour hearing, with a single 10-minute break, promised some important changes on the horizon. Changes meant scratch it the core “amplify for profit“ business model that has come to represent the state of social media
Of the five companies that were there, only three seemed immediately relevant. Meta, TikTok, and Snap. Discord and X seemed irrelevant, and YouTube’s absence was puzzling.
But I would hazard to guess that three potentially important changes came out of the hearing. As one of my smartest Washington friends pointed out this was a rare and genuine bipartisan effort, it is an election year and therefore an incentive to “make something happen.”

What made it different? Well, the hearing room was jammed, full of parents, organized and holding pictures of their sons and daughters, each of them lost to vicious attacks on social media.

The families who lost their children to social media harms were an immense force at the hearing. They were a powerful force, with a mix of applause, silence, and some angry hisses. These parents aren’t going away.

Some possible actions —

- Legislation may well pass — KOSA and/or some of their other 5 bills awaiting a vote.
- Senator Durbin will push Leader Schumer to get bills to the floor
- Voting against child safety will be dangerous in an election year
- Section 230 has a chance of being sunsetted — opening legal liability to platforms. This was a theme in the hearing.

Clips that will explain a change in tone, driven by parents pain…

These clips are by no means all the impactful material — but they reflect important moments in the 5 hr hearing. Here are 6 moments that drive my confidence that this hearing will represent a moment of real chance.

Voices from Parents and Exploited Teens Open the Hearing -

Senator Dick Durbin drives home the bipartisan nature of this committee’s actions

Mark Zuckerberg is pressured to apologize to parents

Ted Cruz Confronts Mark Zuckerberg on knowingly serving teen porn

­
A powerful group of advocates

Who was there? Many friends and colleagues — all working hard to fight for change. Zamaan Qureshi and Emma Lembke (SMC Advisory Board Members), from Design it for Us. Frances Haugen, who’s been a powerful voice on SMC Zoom calls, friend Arturo Bajar, a former Meta leader who testified before Congress late last year. Matt Bergman, of the Social Media Victims Law Center, many of whose families were present in the hearing chamber. Among them Brandy and Toney Roberts and Alexis Spence. And Julie Scelfo of GetMedia Savvy, an SMC Advisory Board Member.

A Press Conference and a Rally after the Hearing:

Zamaan Qureshi and Arturo Béjar spoke at a rally organized by Accountable Tech and Design It For Us to hold tech and social media companies accountable for taking steps to protect kids and teens online. And Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham held a press conference after the hearing

As always, look forward to connecting with you to explore how we can work together to have an impact and drive change. Steve@SustainableMedia.Center. Please reach out.

--

--