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Big Tech Updates


Jan 30, 2023
Big Tech

TikTok CEO to Testify at Energy and Commerce Committee

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) today announced that TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew will appear before the committee to testify on TikTok’s consumer privacy and data security practices, the platforms’ impact on kids, and their relationship with the Chinese Communist Party. It will be Chew’s first appearance before a Congressional committee.  “Big Tech has increasingly become a destructive force in American society. The Energy and Commerce Committee has been at the forefront of asking Big Tech CEOs – from Facebook to Twitter to Google – to answer for their companies’ actions. These efforts will continue with TikTok. ByteDance-owned TikTok has knowingly allowed the ability for the Chinese Communist Party to access American user data. Americans deserve to know how these actions impact their privacy and data security, as well as what actions TikTok is taking to keep our kids safe from online and offline harms. We’ve made our concerns clear with TikTok. It is now time to continue the committee’s efforts to hold Big Tech accountable by bringing TikTok before the committee to provide complete and honest answers for people.”  Chew will testify at a full committee hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee on March 23, 2023. Additional details to follow. 



Jan 27, 2023
Big Tech

E&C Republicans Hold Roundtable on the Dangers of Big Tech and the Fentanyl Poisoning Crisis

House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans held a roundtable this week to discuss the dangers Big Tech poses to American children amidst the fentanyl poisoning crisis. The members heard from and engaged in a discussion with the following panelists: Amy Neville , Founder, Alexander Neville Foundation Carrie Goldberg , Owner, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC Laura Marquez-Garrett , Attorney, Social Media Victims Law Center Sheriff John Nowels , Sheriff, Spokane County, WA Below are highlights from the round table: CHAIR RODGERS: “We’re here today because we’ve all heard from constituents about the dangers that they and their children face online. In many instances, big tech companies have failed to be good stewards on their platforms. “We’ve seen numerous reports detailing how big tech encourages addictive behaviors in our children to keep them glued to their screens and fails to protect their users from malicious actors on their platforms like drug dealers—targeting vulnerable populations with counterfeit drugs laced with fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances. Every day more Americans die from illicit fentanyl-related poisoning.” MS. NEVILLE: “One sunny day in June of 2020, I was preparing to take my 14-year-old son, Alexander, to the orthodontist. I went to his room to wake him, and there he laid, looking like he was just asleep on his bean bag chair—except he wasn’t sleeping. Alex was dead. His father tried CPR, the paramedics tried naloxone, but it was too late. Alex had taken a pill he believed to be OxyContin, turned out that it was a counterfeit pill made with fentanyl. That fake pill had enough fentanyl in it to kill four people. We only had him 14 years.” MS. GOLDBERG: “What you’re going to hear today is that almost all fentanyl poisonings have three things in common. Number one: the purchaser was a teenager. Number two: they had no intention of buying fentanyl but thought that they were purchasing something recreational. And number three: the transaction occurred through the online platform Snapchat.” MS. MARQUEZ-GARRETT: “We now represent more than 47 families whose children have been harmed or have died because of fentanyl poisoning. 43 of those 47 children are dead. Almost half of those children were under the age of 18, as young as the age of 13.” SHERIFF NOWELS: “Social media and electronic communication are a significant tool that our drug traffickers are using to impact our communities negatively. We have had to make significant investment in law enforcement to keep up with technology. “We are finding as time goes on that there are more and more online ways to communicate and distribute drugs than we can even keep up with. “We need help to combat this. Our drug dealers are all-too-often allowed to operate in secrecy. This is a significant issue in every community in this country. We need help to hold people accountable who are poisoning our children.” Check out these tweets from Energy and Commerce Committee members who participated in the roundtable:



Jan 11, 2023
Big Tech

Chair Rodgers Responds to President Biden’s Comments on Big Tech

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) released the following statement in response to President Joe Biden’s Wall Street Journal Op Ed today on Big Tech: “President Biden is correct to acknowledge the risks posed by Big Tech for Americans. Rather than trying to address these harms unilaterally through executive action and contorting authority, the administration needs to work with Congress to enact comprehensive privacy protections through one national privacy standard that protects all Americans, especially our kids. Energy and Commerce made significant bipartisan, bicameral progress last year with the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which included the strongest protections for kids to date. We look forward to President Biden working with us to clear any remaining obstacles standing in the way of a national privacy standard being signed into law. “Additionally, Congress must do more to ensure Big Tech is encouraging more free speech on their platforms, not less, and crack down on the sale of illicit activity, like trafficking fentanyl and sexual exploitation—all of this can be achieved by reforming Section 230. Energy and Commerce Republicans laid the groundwork last Congress with real, workable solutions to address these challenges. Those efforts will continue and I encourage the Biden administration to work with us to reign in Big Tech.” NOTE: E&C Republicans are leading to hold Big Tech accountable and protect people’s privacy online. CLICK HERE to read more about the American Data Privacy and Protection Act. CLICK HERE for more information about E&C Republicans’ Big Tech Accountability Platform.



Dec 14, 2022
Markups

Leader Rodgers: “Free Speech is Foundational to America”

Washington, D.C. —  House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered remarks at today’s Energy and Commerce Committee markup on a  Resolution of Inquiry  on the Biden administration’s efforts to censor Americans by colluding with Big Tech. Excerpts and highlights from her prepared remarks: SALUTE TO DEPARTING MEMBERS “As the 117th Congress comes to a close, I too want to express appreciation to every member of the committee for their hard work during this Congress for the many issues we were able to address. All very important. “I also want to say that we’re going to miss all of you who are not returning, on our side of the aisle, in particular. “Mr. Upton, former Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, just an extraordinary leader of this committee. I’ll always remember when you were in the chair, prioritizing bipartisan work. You wanted to encourage that tradition on this committee and encourage members to come together wherever possible. “I also will remember you for your leadership on 21st Century Cures with Diana Degette and so many others on the committee, making sure that America continues to lead on cures and breakthroughs. “You led the charge there. You set a high bar for all of us. You’ve been just an extraordinary representative. “I also want to call out Mr. McKinley, who is one of our ranking members. Again, such commitment to the people of West Virginia as well as the country.” BIG TECH IS CENSORING PEOPLE ONLINE “For years now, Big Tech has been flagging, suppressing, and outright banning conservatives on their platforms simply for not adhering to their political agenda. “They’ve denied all of these accusations, of course, including in front of this very committee and now, thanks to the recent Twitter Files, we know they were lying. “Top Twitter executives were shadow banning conservatives despite Jack Dorsey claiming otherwise when he was before this committee in 2018. “There have been similar reports showing the Biden administration has been colluding with Big Tech to shut down speech, especially speech that runs counter to President Biden’s agenda. “In March, the Surgeon General stood at the White House podium and urged Big Tech to quote ‘do more’ to silence people online. “Fauci, the CDC, and others have used their official government positions to directly ask social media companies to pull down content or even deactivate accounts. “At every turn, Energy and Commerce Republicans have condemned these actions and demanded transparency from the administration and Big Tech.” AMERICA WAS FOUNDED ON FREE SPEECH “Free speech is foundational to America and our way of life. “Free speech has led to ingenuity and innovation in everything from science to art. “Free speech has been essential for entrepreneurs succeeding in every industry, including the tech industry. “Our country was founded on this. “Our founding fathers and mothers enshrined the First Amendment to protect against government officials abusing their positions of power and public trust to try to silence the voices of those with whom they disagree. “Free speech should be cherished and preserved. “And any attempt by the government to force, coerce or suggest private companies censor people’s free speech is incredibly alarming and warrants scrutiny. “I am pleased to support this resolution asking for more evidence of these conversations between Big Tech and the administration.”



Dec 14, 2022
Markups

Latta: Censoring Americans is Fundamentally Un-American

Washington, D.C. —  Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH) delivered remarks at today’s Energy and Commerce Committee markup on a  Resolution of Inquiry  regarding the administration coordinating with social media companies to silence Americans. Excerpts and highlights from his remarks: “Today, we will consider a resolution of inquiry sponsored by Mr. Clyde of Georgia to obtain information from the Biden Administration regarding the attempts to silence voices online that haven’t fit into the accepted liberal orthodoxy. “This Committee has a duty to conduct oversight of the Biden Administration, especially when it comes to the government influencing what speech is deemed acceptable. “At a time when the Administration should be focused on lowering prices, unleashing American energy, and securing our southern border, they have instead pressured social media companies to silence the voices of those with whom they disagree. “Repeatedly, Biden Administration officials have used their role to persuade Big Tech companies to shut down conservative viewpoints. “This Administration continues its attempts to regulate free speech, and its officials need to come before this committee to answer for their censorship efforts. “That is fundamentally un-American. “I look forward to today’s discussion and urge my colleagues vote to forward this request for information to the Floor.”



E&C Republican Leaders Demand Briefing with TikTok About the Exploitation of Kids on the Platform

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Republican Leader Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Republican Leader Bob Latta (R-OH), and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) sent a letter to TikTok this week following reports over how the company has failed to address the sexual exploitation of kids on its platform. Excerpts and highlights from the  exclusive coverage  by Forbes: “‘TikTok has been incapable of rooting out the spate of TikTok accounts that are trading illegal child sexual content,’ four House lawmakers wrote Wednesday to TikTok’s chief, citing a November Forbes investigation that revealed how illicit private handles on the platform are hiding child abuse material in plain sight—posted using a setting that makes it visible only to the person logged in. “‘Equally troubling are the livestreams your company hosts that allow adult TikTok users to monetarily persuade children to perform sexually suggestive acts,’ the letter continued, citing a separate Forbes investigation, from April, into how adults use TikTok Live to exploit underage girls—by paying them to engage in provocative, potentially illegal behavior. “‘Considering that about half of all U.S. children use TikTok every day, our concerns enumerated above are paramount. … Therefore, we ask you [to] provide the Committee with a briefing as soon as possible, but no later than December 21,’ the memo concluded. It was led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the top Republican on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee who, along with her counterpart on House Oversight, opened an investigation into TikTok in July over China’s ability to access U.S. user data. Reps. Gus Bilirakis of Florida, Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Bob Latta of Ohio also signed onto the letter fired off Wednesday and shared exclusively with Forbes.” CLICK HERE  to read the full Forbes story. CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to TikTok.



Nov 29, 2022
Big Tech

Leader Rodgers in Fox News: E&C Republicans Will Prioritize Parents Next Congress

Big Tech refuses to be transparent about how their platforms are putting our children’s lives and mental health at risk. They aren’t doing enough to stop the illegal sale of fentanyl on their platforms. They refuse to acknowledge the dangerous algorithms that direct and amplify harmful content to kids and teens — especially teen girls. They refuse to end the exploitative practices that take advantage of children and teens for profit. Parents have called on Congress to act. House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans will be ready next year with real, workable solutions to enable parents to take on Big Tech companies that are harming their kids. In a recent  Fox News  profile, Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) laid out the E&C Republican agenda to remove liability protections from Big Tech companies that knowingly promote, solicit, or facilitate illegal activity, including the sale of illegal drugs, and equip parents with the tools they need to ensure their kids are safe online. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the incoming chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told Fox News Digital that the nation’s biggest technology companies are in for a rude awakening when the GOP-led Congress takes office in January. BIG TECH MUST DO MORE TO CRACK DOWN ON ILLEGAL DRUGS “I have heard too many stories, personal stories of parents who have tragically lost their children to fentanyl because of drugs purchased online,” said McMorris Rodgers. “I believe that Big Tech needs to be doing more to crack down on this illegal activity and prevent criminals from exploiting these platforms.” The Washington Republican said her committee would hold oversight hearings into how drug traffickers and dealers have subverted social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat to sell illicit substances. McMorris Rodgers said those hearings would look into drug dealers and how Big Tech is not doing enough to stop them. BIDEN NEEDS TO ENFORCE THE LAW McMorris Rodgers said that while the Communications Decency Act of 1996 already requires technology companies to moderate content that is illegal, such as the sale of certain drugs, the federal government is not enforcing the law. “They are not being held accountable for these harms,” said the congresswoman. “We need to hold Big Tech accountable, hold the Biden administration accountable.” CHILDREN SUFFER MOST FROM BIG TECH HARMS Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are also planning to probe whether Big Tech companies have downplayed or hid studies showing that social media platforms have a negative impact on children. Big Tech CEOs “have testified before the Energy and Commerce [Committee] in the past, but [we believe] they have not been transparent about the impact their platforms have on our children,” said McMorris Rodgers. The congresswoman said she hopes that further transparency will help parents ensure their children are safe online. “It’s just not a fair fight right now,” said McMorris Rodgers. “We need to make sure parents have the tools necessary to monitor their kids’ use of social media, so they can put time limits on usage and be notified if their kids might be involved in suspicious activity.”



Nov 22, 2022
Big Tech

Rodgers, Comer Press TikTok on Data Sharing Practices with Communist China

Details TikTok Provided in a Committee Staff Briefing Appear to be Untrue or Misleading   Washington, D.C.  — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY) are raising concerns TikTok provided misleading or false information to the committees about its data sharing and privacy practices with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In a letter to Shou Zi Chew, Chief Executive Officer of TikTok, the Republican lawmakers renew their request for all information about TikTok’s organizational structure and data sharing practices and also notify the social media company to preserve all e-mail, electronic records, and communications.   “On July 14, 2022, we wrote to you requesting documents and information regarding TikTok’s organizational structure and its data sharing and privacy practices relating to China. On July 28, 2022, you responded and on September 7, 2022, your staff provided a bipartisan briefing. However, we still have unanswered questions and you failed to provide responsive documents requested by the Committee. Additionally, some of the information TikTok provided during the staff briefing appears to be untrue or misleading, including that TikTok does not track U.S. user locations,”  wrote the Republican lawmakers.  “The information being withheld is especially relevant considering recent  New York Times  reporting suggesting TikTok and the Biden Administration may be close to an agreement to allow TikTok to remain operational in the U.S. without any major changes to its corporate structure.”  “According to reports, the Biden Administration and TikTok have been negotiating a deal to allow TikTok to remain in operation in the United States. The two sides reportedly came to terms on the foundation of an agreement that includes changes to TikTok’s data security and governance without requiring China-based ByteDance to relinquish its authority over the social media app. Reports indicate TikTok is actively imbedding trackers across the internet to gather Americans’ search data and using the app to track specific location data of designated targets.    “It appears that during the September 7, 2022, briefing by TikTok, the company shared potentially false or misleading information with bipartisan Committee staff. During the briefing, TikTok told staff that: (1) TikTok does not track users’ internet data while not using the application; and (2) that China-based employees do not have access to U.S. users’ location specific data. Both claims appear to be misleading at best, and at worst, false,”  continued the Republican lawmakers.  “It is unclear if this plan included tracking U.S. government officials, journalists, or other public figures. If true, these reports are deeply concerning and provide significant evidence that TikTok may have made misleading statements during its briefing with bipartisan Committee staff.”   Read the letter to TikTok CEO Chew  HERE .



E&C Republican Leaders Demand Transparency from Toy Manufacturers Advertising to Children on TikTok, YouTube

Washington, D.C. —  House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) are asking toy manufacturers how they plan to ensure children and their information is protected online following  reports  that manufacturers are moving their marketing efforts to Big Tech companies like TikTok and YouTube in order to increase their reach and target advertisements to children on those platforms.   Big Tech has failed to protect privacy, security, and mental health of children on their platforms and on numerous occasions have violated child privacy laws like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Additionally, TikTok  knowingly shares  American users’, including children’s, information, with its parent company ByteDance who by law must share it with the Chinese Communist Party.   Big Tech continues to jeopardize the online privacy of children, and parents deserve transparency for how toy manufacturers—which are advertising to their children—plan to address these issues.   Excerpts and highlights from the letter:  “On September 22, Axios reported that toy manufacturers are hastily shifting their marketing dollars from traditional television outlets to social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube.  This shift reflects a larger advertising trend moving away from supporting curated content via traditional video distribution to one that is supporting user generated content on social media platforms.  “As early Black Friday sales are already occurring to provide savings for Americans paying record-high inflation, we understand you must be selective in how you use your marketing dollars.  However, as a company that depends on American consumers, your company must be scrupulous in how your marketing practices impact potential users of your products. As a company that markets products for and to children, your company must be responsible for the outlets with which it chooses to do business. It is essential to recognize your content attracts children at an early age to Big Tech platforms, including ones that have alarming ties to China.   “Unfortunately, the reported marketing practices that the toy industry has utilized deserves special attention due to the privacy and data security practices of its Big Tech partners, such as TikTok and YouTube.  These companies have a questionable history regarding the vast amount of user data collected. The data collection record for both companies gets worse for children. For example, TikTok says it requires users to be at least 13 years old to use the platform, but it does not use any age verification tools when new users sign up.  “For children on TikTok and YouTube, law enforcement agencies have found numerous times that both TikTok and YouTube have violated child privacy laws.  In February 2019, TikTok settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding charges that the company illegally collected personal information from children violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which at that time the $5.7 million in fines was the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case. Seven months later, YouTube broke the record with a payment of $136 million to the FTC to settle charges it collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent in violation of COPPA.  “In one year, the two companies racked up tens of millions in fines for collecting children’s personal  “information without parental consent. Sadly, we know these fines pale in comparison to the revenues generated by these two companies, which are in the billions of dollars.  “Due to the number of American children on social media platforms and the track record of negligence by Big Tech companies in protecting our children’s privacy, security, and mental health, we have several questions on how you will deal with companies like TikTok and YouTube during the holiday season and the vast troves of data they collect on children.”   CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to Bandai Namco.  CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to Hasbro.  CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to Mattel.  CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to MGA Entertainment.  CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to The Lego Group.  CLICK HERE  to read the full letter to the Toy Association.  Energy and Commerce Republicans are leading on strengthening privacy protections for Americans, especially when it comes stronger protections for children under the age of 17. In July, the Committee passed the bipartisan  American Data Privacy and Protection Act  which puts people back in control of their online data and ensures Big Tech faces real consequences for tracking, predicting, and manipulating children on their platforms for profit. CLICK HERE  to read more about the American Data Privacy and Protection Act.