Meta, Tiktok, X and Snapchat Face Congress Questioning Among Privacy Concerns

Tiktok Logo (Credits: Tiktok)

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., expressed frustration towards top social media company leaders, including Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, and X CEO Linda Yaccarino, stating, “We could regulate you out of business if we wanted to.”

Lawmakers accused the tech executives of failing to adequately protect children from sexual exploitation on their respective platforms, leading to a tense and emotional hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee room was filled with guests, including many parents whose children had been targeted by online predators.

In a notable exchange, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., compelled Zuckerberg to stand and apologize directly to parents who believed that Meta’s Facebook and Instagram apps had contributed to the death of their children.

Zuckerberg expressed remorse, stating, “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”

Wall Street appears unconvinced that significant financial repercussions will result from congressional action, at least for now. (Credits: US Congress)

Despite the emotional testimony, the hearing did not immediately signal imminent regulation, as reflected in the relatively flat after-hours trading of Meta and Snap shares.

Wall Street appears unconvinced that significant financial repercussions will result from congressional action, at least for now.

While both Republican and Democratic senators voiced concerns about the harmful impact of social media on young people, the legislative process takes time, and passing bills to regulate social media firms may face hurdles.

Advocates for child safety and anti-big tech movements remain hopeful that the hearing will spur regulatory efforts, including proposed bills like the Stop CSAM Act and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).

Meta, in particular, faced scrutiny during the hearing due to its large user base, privacy breaches, and recent lawsuits, including one filed by New Mexico’s attorney general alleging inadequate protection of young users from predators.

Meta (Credits: Dado Ruvic)

Potential penalties from these lawsuits could impact Meta’s business, as evidenced by the substantial settlement paid in 2022 for its Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Despite challenges, Meta’s business has shown signs of recovery, partly due to its advertising business benefiting from “Chinese retailers,” speculated to include startups like Temu and Shein. Lawmakers also raised concerns about Chinese influence, questioning TikTok’s Chew about the platform’s Chinese owner, ByteDance.

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., pressed Chew on China, even inquiring about his affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party. Chew clarified his nationality as Singaporean, emphasizing the heightened scrutiny faced by Chinese-owned tech companies.

Nate O'Hara
Nathan is a seasoned commerce writer with a passion for unraveling the intricacies of the business world and distilling them into engaging narratives. During his academic journey, he delved deep into subjects like economics, marketing, and entrepreneurship, honing his analytical skills and developing a keen understanding of market dynamics.