Big Tech is Harming our Children
“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. 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. Your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent. I’m a mom of three school-aged kids. My husband and I are fighting the Big Tech battles in our household every day. It’s a battle for their development, a battle for their mental health, and ultimately, a battle for their safety. I’ve monitored where your algorithms lead them. It’s frightening. I know I’m not alone.” — Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Big Tech Timeline
The rise of Big Tech and social media platforms has coincided with an alarming surge in the number of American teens experiencing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression:
Between 2011 and 2018 —
- Rates of depression, self-harm, suicides, and suicide attempts exploded among American teens;
- Rates of teen depression increased by more than 60 percent, with the larger increase among young girls.
Between 2009 and 2015—
- Emergency room admissions for self-harm among 10- to 14-year-old girls tripled, and suicides substantially increased;
- Teens who used their devices for five or more hours a day were 66 percent more likely to have at least one suicide-related outcome compared to those who used their device for just one, according to one study.
The new realities of COVID-19 have further increased the amount of time our children spend on their devices and online. The beginning of 2021, Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans decided to take action to hold Big Tech accountable. Our children’s mental health and well-being is worth fighting for, and parents will need the necessary tools, information, and transparency from Big Tech in order to have a fair fight.January 26, 2021: Leader Rodgers shared her Big Tech Accountability Platform in a memo to Committee and House Leadership laying out her aggressive agenda and priorities to hold Big Tech accountable.
February 5, 2021: Leader Rodgers and Republican Subcommittee Leaders Rep. Robert Latta, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, and Rep. Morgan Griffith issued a letter to Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. demanding that a hearing be held with Big Tech CEOs to hold them accountable for their increasingly destructive actions.
February 18, 2021: The Majority announced Big Tech hearing months after Republicans asked for it.
March 8, 2021: In advance of the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing with Big Tech CEOs, Republicans on the Committee put out a call to action from the public on their concerns for and trust of Big Tech and received feedback from thousands of Americans across the country. The Public overwhelmingly confirmed they do not trust Big Tech and they want more transparency on how Big Tech runs their platforms.
March 25, 2021: The Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing with the CEOs of Facebook, Google, and Twitter, on how their platforms are hurting children’s mental health and well-being. The bottom line was that Big Tech has grown too powerful, they have not been responsible stewards of their platforms, which is having harmful consequences for our children.
March 30, 2021: Following the Big Tech hearing, Leader Rodgers and other Republican subcommittee Leaders issued letters to Big Tech CEOs requesting information regarding internal research or studies conducted by the companies to better understand their product’s harm on children’s mental health.
April 15, 2021: Republican staff on the Energy and Commerce Committee circulated a staff memo outlining several legislative concepts—based on the Big Tech Accountability Memo—to help drive future policies addressing Big Tech, including Section 230, protecting children online, and transparency requirements for content moderation.
May 5, 2021: Facebook’s Content Oversight Board announced its decision to uphold the company’s ban on Trump’s account. Several committee leaders, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Bob Latta, and Gus Bilirakis issued statements on the Orwellian process that lacked both transparency and accountability.
June 16, 2021: Leader Rodgers circulated a memo with Committee Republican members and staff articulating the third pillar of her Big Tech Accountability Platform, which addresses the relationship Big Tech has with China, in particularly its access to Americans’ personal information.
July 7, 2021: House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans, led by Republican Leader Rodgers, unveiled a comprehensive package of discussion draft bills to hold Big Tech accountable by improving transparency and content moderation accountability, reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, promoting competition, and preventing illegal and harmful activity on their platforms.