Washington, D.C. – November 21, 2023
In a significant move to address the growing concerns surrounding online child sexual exploitation, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Monday that subpoenas have been issued to the CEOs of Discord, Snap, and X (formerly known as Twitter). The hearing is scheduled for December 6, with Meta CEO “Mark Zuckerberg” and TikTok CEO “ShouZi Chew” expected to voluntarily testify at a future session, the date of which remains uncertain.
The committee disclosed that Discord and X, owned by tech mogul Elon Musk, initially declined to cooperate by refusing to accept service of the subpoenas on behalf of their CEOs. Consequently, the U.S. Marshals Service was enlisted to personally serve the subpoenas. Copies of the subpoenas were released, identifying Evan Spiegel of Snap, Jason Citron of Discord, and Linda Yaccarino of X.
Wifredo Fernandez, Head of US & Canada Government Affairs for X, emphasized the company’s commitment to addressing child protection online, stating, “Safety is our top priority at X. Today we are communicating our updated availability to participate in a hearing on this important issue.”
In response to the development, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and TikTok offered no comments. Discord and Snap have yet to respond to requests for comment.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin and Ranking Republican Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement, expressing the committee’s intention to scrutinize CEOs from major social media companies regarding their failures to safeguard children online. “Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered,” Durbin and Graham asserted. “Hearing from the CEOs of some of the world’s largest social media companies will help inform the Committee’s efforts to address the crisis of online child sexual exploitation.”
Since the committee’s previous hearing in February, several bills have been approved, including one that seeks to remove tech firms’ immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws initially proposed in 2020. Another bill aims to establish a “National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention,” while a third focuses on modernizing investigations and prosecutions of online child exploitation crimes.
As the date of the hearing approaches, industry leaders and the public alike will be watching closely to see how these prominent CEOs address the critical issue of online child safety in what promises to be a pivotal moment for Big Tech accountability.