Lawmakers on Tuesday morning are grilling executives from YouTube, Snap and TikTok about mounting concerns that their platforms can harm children and teenagers.
TikTok is likely to face questions about how its algorithm steers its billion users to content about sex, drugs and violence. YouTube could confront lawmaker concerns about its content policies, including a September decision to ban misinformation about vaccines. And Snap has responded to questions in recent months about drug dealing on its platform.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, opened the hearing by accusing the companies using algorithms to draw young people further and further into their platforms.
“Everything that you do is to add users, especially kids, and keep them on your apps for longer,” said Mr. Blumenthal, who leads the subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee holding the hearing.
The companies are sending executives with political experience to answer the questions. TikTok will be represented by Michael Beckerman, its head of public policy for the Americas who used to lead a top lobbying group for internet companies. Leslie Miller, YouTube’s vice president for government affairs and public policy and a former Democratic political aide, will appear on behalf of the streaming site. Snap is sending Jennifer Stout, its vice president for global public policy and John Kerry’s former deputy chief of staff.
Two weeks ago, Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager who leaked thousands of pages of internal documents, told the committee how the company knew that its products made teenagers feel worse about themselves. The decision to invite executives from other companies reflects how the lawmakers’ concerns go beyond Facebook and its photo app, Instagram, to include other major platforms across the web.
“I understand from your testimony that your defense is: We’re not Facebook,” said Mr. Blumenthal. “Being different from Facebook is not a defense. That bar is in the gutter.”