WASHINGTON – Social media CEOs, including the heads of TikTok, Snap and Meta, faced an onslaught of difficult questions and accusations during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. The meeting focused on big tech and the online child sexual exploitation crisis, but lawmakers also addressed the growing number of drug deaths related to social media purchases.
Dozens of parents who have lost children to bullying or buying drugs online showed pictures of their lost loved ones, including Chris Didier who was a guest on the latest Grieving Out Loud podcast episode. Didier lost his son Zach after the 17-year-old decided to buy what he thought was Percocet via Snapchat. Unfortunately, it was a deadly dose of fentanyl.
“Our children should be a priority, not their profit,” Didier wrote on Instagram following the hearing.
Didier wrote that the meeting was necessary to address the dark side of social media and potential harms, but it was difficult to watch. At one point Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told the CEOs, “You have blood on your hands.”
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg responded to the families by rising from his chair to apologize. “I’m sorry for everything you have been through,” Zuckerberg said. “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered, and this is why we invested so much.”
However, lawmakers at the hearing said that there hasn’t been enough invested. Legislators have also failed to quickly advance bills that would more closely monitor drug trafficking on social media.
“When a Boeing plane lost a door in mid-flight several weeks ago, nobody questioned the decision to ground a fleet of over 700 planes. So why aren’t we taking the same type of decisive action on the danger of these platforms when we know these kids are dying? We have bills that have passed through this incredibly diverse committee when it comes to our political views that have passed through this committee, and they should go to the floor,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said.
That includes the Cooper Davis Act, which was introduced almost a year ago,but it has since stalled. The bill would require social media companies and other communication service providers to report to the DEA when they know of the sale or distribution of illicit drugs including fentanyl, methamphetamine, or a counterfeit controlled substance on their platforms.
“Personally, I feel legislators of Capitol Hill also have equal (if not greater) responsibility to update our laws that bring meaningful safety improvements on social media platforms,” Didier wrote. “It’s time to regulate and keep our kids safe.”