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Senate Judiciary hearing signals strong bipartisan support for legislative action to protect kids online

Three members of Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media testified before the committee

Media Contact

Cory Combs

Director of Media Relations

Today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the harms that children face in the online world featured broad bipartisan support for congressional legislative action that would protect the safety, privacy, and well-being of our youth.

Three members of Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media gave witness testimony and answered questions from senators on both sides of the aisle: Kristin Bride, a mother who lost her son to cyberbullying; Emma Lembke, a Gen Z social media advocate and founder of LOG OFF, a youth movement that seeks to tackle the challenges of social media and its impact on younger generations; and Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, an organization committed to helping children thrive in an increasingly digital world.

Each witness brought a different perspective to the same harsh reality — social media platforms aren’t designed with the wellbeing of children in mind. Instead, as Kristin noted, these are “products designed to hook and monetize America’s children.” The three members of the Council discussed the litany of harms that can be directed to children, often without their consent or knowledge. “Compulsive overuse, exposure to harmful and age-inappropriate content, cyberbullying, eating disorders, harms to mental health, and the sexual exploitation of children are just some of the problems linked to Big Tech’s insidious business model,” said Golin. Lastly, each witness called on Congress to put partisanship to the side and finally rein in Big Tech. “Make no mistake,” warned Lembke. “Unregulated social media is a weapon of mass destruction that continues to jeopardize the privacy, safety, and wellbeing of all American youth.

A recording of the hearing is available here.

Over the course of the hearing, Republicans and Democrats agreed that more needs to be done to protect children online and reduce the harmful effects impacting our youth.

“The online world offers tremendous opportunities and benefits, but it’s a serious risk and danger to our kids,” said Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) during his opening remarks. “In almost every aspect of the real world, child safety is a top priority. We lock the door and teach our kids not to talk to strangers. But in the virtual world, criminals and bullies don’t need to pick a lock or wait outside the playground to hurt our kids. They only have to lurk in the shadows online of Facebook and Snapchat. In those shadows, they can bully, intimidate, addict, or sexually exploit our kids right in our own homes… But despite all these known risks and harms, online platforms are doing everything they can to keep our kids’ eyes glued to the screens. In the process they’re vacuuming up tons of data they can use to build profiles and target our kids with even more ads and content. It’s a lucrative business at the expense of our kids’ privacy, safety, and health.”

Sen. Durbin concluded by stating, “Like we do in the real world, we need to protect our kids in the virtual world. This is not a partisan issue. It’s an issue that keeps parents and children up at night. It deserves the attention of this committee and Congress, and it deserves action.”

Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC) echoed Chairman Durbin, adding: “The American consumer is virtually unprotected from the adverse effects of social media. That needs to, and I think will, change… Of all Americans, I think young people are the most exposed here. Parents feel helpless… This is an epidemic, it is a mental health crisis particularly for young teenage girls, and we have no system in place to empower parents and empower consumers to seek justice, to fight back, and to protect themselves. That’s going to change in this Congress I hope.”

Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media is a bipartisan group of more than 50 leaders from different sectors who have come together to create a healthier social media environment and find solutions to the technological harms to our kids, communities, and our national security.

Transcripts of the opening testimonies are available here: