Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington rebuked Big Tech companies for using their power “to manipulate and harm our children,” in a joint hearing with CEOs from Facebook, Twitter, and Google on Thursday.
“10 years ago — when I joined Big Tech platforms — I thought they would be a force for good. I thought they would help us build relationships and promote transparency in Congress,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Today, Big Tech platforms are my biggest fear as a parent.”
“You’ve broken my trust. Yes, because you’ve failed to promote the battle of ideas and free speech. Yes, because you censor political viewpoints you disagree with. Those polarizing actions matter for democracy,” she said. “But, do you know what has convinced me Big Tech is a destructive force? It’s how you’ve abused your power to manipulate and harm our children.”
.@CathyMcMorris to Big Tech:
“10 years ago—when I joined Big Tech platforms—I thought they would be a force for good. Today, Big Tech platforms are my biggest fear as a parent.” pic.twitter.com/ERp56DBEfa
— Energy & Commerce GOP (@HouseCommerce) March 25, 2021
Rodgers shared the difficulties she encountered as a parent trying to monitor her kids’ activity on the internet. She referenced the rising suicide rates among youth and attributed technology addiction as a driving factor.
“Remember, our kids — the users — are the product. You — Big Tech — are not advocates for children. You exploit and profit off them,” she said. “Big Tech needs to be exposed and completely transparent for what you are doing to our children so parents like me can make informed decisions.”
One study from 2017 found that a rise in teen suicide was linked to desires to obtain social media popularity. About 500,000 participants who are in the age range of 13 to 18 were found to have increased depression and feelings of hopelessness.
Rodgers and House Republicans developed a “Big Tech Accountability Program” at the beginning of the year in-part aimed at addressing how Big Tech “hurts children” and “uses algorithms to drive addiction,” as well as the role the companies play “in child grooming and trafficking.”
“What will it take for your business model to stop harming children?” Rodgers said at the hearing.