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Snap's Leader Will Testify as Senate Judiciary Seeks Appearances of Big Tech CEOs on Child Safety

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the company said Monday after it announced subpoenas seeking testimony from Snap, X and Discord about children's online safety. The committee also said it’s in discussions about potential voluntary testimony from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.

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Snap’s CEO has already agreed to testify,” the company said Monday. “[O]ur team is coordinating with Committee staff on potential dates. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee to discuss this vital issue.”

A full committee hearing about online child sexual exploitation is scheduled for Dec. 6. “After repeated refusals to appear during several weeks of negotiations,” the committee issued subpoenas for the testimony of Spiegel, X CEO Linda Yaccarino and Discord CEO Jason Citron, Judiciary said. “Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered,” Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in a statement with ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “At our February hearing on protecting children’s safety online, we promised Big Tech that they’d have their chance to explain their failures to protect kids. Now’s that chance.”

TikTok is in ”ongoing” conversations with the committee, a spokesperson said Monday.

Discord is “actively engaging with the Committee on how we can best contribute to this important industry discussion,” the company said Monday. “Keeping our users safe, especially young people, is central to everything we do at Discord. … We welcome the opportunity to work together as an industry and with the Committee." X and Meta didn’t comment.

Snap, Discord and X refused to cooperate and accept the subpoenas on behalf of executives in a “remarkable departure from typical practice,” the committee said. This required it to work with the U.S. Marshals Service to “personally serve the subpoenas.”

Graham at a Judiciary hearing earlier this month raised the prospect of repealing Section 230. He told us soon after to expect a committee hearing on the topic (see 2311070069). CEO testimony “will help inform the Committee’s efforts to address the crisis of online child sexual exploitation,” he said with Durbin on Monday.

NTIA received public feedback last week on how Congress can legislate the issue (see 2311160059). Comments were due Thursday, and some 600 have been received, but the agency hasn’t posted them. The Association of National Advertisers and TechNet said passage of a federal privacy law would be the best way to protect online users, including minors. They, along with several other groups, spoke against proposals requiring platforms to manually verify users' age. “We believe that a comprehensive federal privacy framework is the best vehicle to codify privacy protections for consumers of all ages, including minors,” TechNet said in its comments.

Proposals to “arbitrarily limit minors’ use of online services” will “jeopardize” their “ability to connect with one another and undermine the overarching goal of strengthening privacy protections for minors online,” TechNet said. ANA agreed, noting that “excessive limits” on platforms, advertising and ways in which minors connect have faced legal challenges in Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Utah and California. ANA cited a California court’s decision to strike down the state’s age-verification law on First Amendment grounds. Age-verification mandates are “unconstitutional,” as they violate the “First Amendment rights of adults to anonymously access lawful, constitutionally protected content online,” TechFreedom said in comments.

The Center for Democracy & Technology cautioned Congress against enacting age-verification requirements. French and Australian regulators have “concluded that age verification raises far too many privacy and security concerns to be mandated by law,” CDT said in its comments. “A federal study would go a long way in understanding the privacy and expression risks of age assurance technology.”

Three child-safety advocates urged Congress to pass the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). Common Sense Media, the Center for Digital Democracy and Fairplay jointly filed comments. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told us recently she will seek unanimous consent for passage of both bills (see 2311090071).