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TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube questioned by US lawmakers about child safety

TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube questioned by US lawmakers about child safety

San Francisco: TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube are in the hot seat as United States lawmakers questioned the tech companies on their influence on kids on Tuesday.

Citing the harm that can come to vulnerable young people from the sites — ranging from eating disorders to exposure to sexually explicit content and material promoting addictive drugs — the lawmakers also sought the executives' support for legislation bolstering protection of children on social media.

At the hearing by the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, Senator Richard Blumenthal, remarked that parents of America cannot trust these apps with their children.

"I want a market where the competition is to protect children, not to exploit them," Blumenthal said.

He also told the companies that everything they do is to add users, especially kids and keep them on apps for longer, reports CNET.

Blumenthal further added that he has heard from parents about the "rabbit hole" teenagers go down when they log onto Snap, TikTok and YouTube.

As per reports, his office, which created accounts on TikTok and YouTube as part of their own research, also found that extreme dieting and eating disorder content is easy to find on these platforms.

The hearing comes amid heightened scrutiny of social media giant Facebook, which is the subject of a series of stories based on leaked documents that suggest the company knows about the harm its platforms cause to the mental health of teenagers, as well as democracy and developing countries.

The hearing also marks the first time Snap and TikTok have testified.

Snap is being represented by Jennifer Stout, the vice president of global public policy; TikTok by Michael Beckerman, vice president and head of public policy, Americas; and YouTube by Leslie Miller, vice president of government affairs and public policy.

Stout tried to distinguish Snapchat from its rival Facebook, noting that the company was built as "an antidote to social media".

Unlike Facebook, Snapchat doesn't have a News Feed and the disappearing app is being used by people to communicate privately with their friends.

"We have a moral responsibility to take into account the best interest of our users and everything we do. And we understand that there is more work to be done," she said.

Beckerman said TikTok has built features to protect younger users. People under 16 have their TikTok accounts set to private automatically.

"There is no finish line when it comes to protecting children and teens. The challenges are complex and we are determined to work hard and keep the platform safe and create age-appropriate experiences," he said.

YouTube told Congress in prepared remarks that it removed 7 million accounts believed to belong to young children and preteens in the first three quarters.

The company said on YouTube Kids and YouTube, autoplay videos are off by default for users under 18.

YouTube also plans to launch more parental controls in the YouTube Kids app autoplay is off by default, including the ability for a parent to choose a locked default autoplay setting.

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TAGS:tiktok Snapchat YouTube Child safety US lawmakers 
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