U.S. Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) recently warned the chief executives running Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube that they are violating their terms of services by allowing the popular online platforms to be accessed by children under the age of 13 years.
Spurred by reports of high percentages of kids under 13 accessing these sites and viewing potentially dangerous content, Rep. Curtis and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) sent three separate July 1 letters to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook and owner of Instagram; Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap. Inc.; and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to ensure underage users cannot access their sites.
“These landmark technological advancements come at some cost to society,” wrote Reps. Curtis and Bilirakis, both members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee. “Increased exposure to inappropriate or offensive content has specifically been linked to social media platforms and our children are those most impacted by these negative experiences.”
The congressmen noted that while Big Tech might easily say it is the responsibility of parents to police what their children access online, the lawmakers don’t think that the companies currently offer the transparency required to allow parents that option, according to their letters.
“We also know children are only a few clicks away from using your websites on any phone or computer and believe you bear responsibility to provide a safe platform for them,” they wrote.
Rep. Curtis and his colleague asked for responses to several questions as soon as possible, including the specific steps that are taken to identify an underage user and ensure these users cannot register under another false identification, as well as what specific steps will be taken or are planned to be taken to protect younger users against cyber-bullying and sexually offensive content.
They also asked what steps Congress should take to help protect the nation’s children from offensive content on these sites and from foreign adversaries using them to influence American society.
“We acknowledge the challenging task of policing your site for underage or fake accounts, but increased attention must be placed on ensuring underage children are not using these sites and exposed to inappropriate content,” Rep. Curtis and his colleague wrote in each letter.