[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – In case you missed it, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) joined Accountable Tech and youth activists to discuss social media’s harms to young people’s mental health and well-being, and ensure young people are at the forefront of conversations about reforms to make online platforms safer for kids. As Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, Blumenthal has spearheaded a series of hearings on Big Tech’s impacts on kids, culminating in the introduction of the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which would empower kids and teens online and hold Big Tech accountable.
“I am just in awe – and I say that, really from the heart – in awe of your ability to articulate what I have been struggling to say and convey about your experiences. Not only should you have a seat at the table, but you ought to be directing what we're doing at the table because you are the experts,” said Blumenthal to the youth activists at today’s roundtable. “The self-awareness and information that you have developed is just so powerful and every one of you has similar kinds of insights that I think we ought to put before my colleagues in some way.”
Blumenthal discussed with the youth panelists their personal experiences growing up with social media, the harms of social media platforms, and their activism to make tech safer.
“I've been making notes as you've gone along. I'm sure I haven't done it justice. But I think one of the important points here is the idea of collaboration. I think, Zamaan you made this point. It's not young people ‘against.’ It’s not parents ‘against.’ It’s parents and their children and young people collaborating,” Blumenthal continued. “Facebook knew what the effects were of these algorithms and the destructive dynamic and it did nothing to change because it was making more money. And it's not only Facebook. It is a lot of the other Big Tech platforms that share the business model. The business model is more eyes, more money, drive the destructive content.”
“We have the obligation and opportunity to use measures like the Kids Online Safety Act, to make it safer and open the black box algorithms, make them transparent,” Blumenthal said. “Give parents tools and young people those tools because very often they feel powerless in the face of content about bullying, the social eating disorders, even suicide and substance abuse. So giving them more control or giving them back control over their lives is very, very important.”
The full video of today’s roundtable is available here.