Behind the Scenes: The Senate & Social Media

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At the end of January, the U.S. Senate Judiciary held a contentious, hours-long full committee hearing where they grilled the CEOs of the major social media companies—Meta, TikTok, Discord, and X—about the exploitation of children across their platforms.

The senators grilled the executives on the intentional addictive nature of the platforms and the widespread problems the platforms promote, including CSAM (child sexual abuse material, formerly known as child pornography), mental illness, eating disorders, bullying, and suicide.

Testimony also included parents whose children were victimized on social media. In the gallery, family members who lost children to suicide due to uncontrolled content on the platforms held up pictures of their loved ones. Child sexual abuse survivors and advocacy organizations participated as well, showing the senators how social media has given many predators a “free pass” into children’s bedrooms and the damage that access is causing to children, families, and communities.

Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) and the committee have spent more than a year examining the problems of social media and have introduced legislation to tackle some of the biggest challenges, including supporting survivors, removing tech’s blanket immunity from civil and criminal liability for CSAM, and giving law enforcement the tools and power to effectively investigate and prosecute the crimes.

But did you ever wonder who is behind the scenes, helping the committee understand the key issues, cutting through propaganda spin from the platforms, and educating the senators and their staff members about the scope and depth of the project?

Enter Zero Abuse Project.

Zero Abuse Project, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating child abuse and sexual exploitation, was founded by Jeff Anderson five years ago. Since that time, the organization has grown into a child safety juggernaut, leading the nation in law enforcement education and training, survivor support, and digital safety.

One of the organization’s strongest programs addresses Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), receiving millions in grants to create successful and innovative tools to help law enforcement find and prosecute people to create and disseminate CSAM.

Because of Zero Abuse’s effective work with law enforcement, Zero Abuse Project’s subject matter experts were the among the first professionals that the senate committee relied upon to help assist in research, craft questions, and tackle the complicated issues that the tech CEOs were hoping to avoid.

The results were staggering. Gallery attendees, including Naveen Radwan, the parent of a teen who struggled with eating disorders due to the “black hole” of social media content, told the Associated Press that “she felt a “significant shift” in the energy as she sat through the hearing, listening to the senators grill the social media CEOs in tense exchanges.”

The senators, she said, were no longer satisfied to hear platitudes and promises of policies.

Well-prepared and educated lawmakers will make a difference. And due to the powerful and effective work of nonprofits and advocacy organizations like the Zero Abuse Project, we will see real reforms in child safety across the internet and in real life.

To learn more about Zero Abuse Project and to donate, click here.

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