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Rodgers to Big Tech: Your Platforms are My Biggest Fear as a Parent


03.25.21

Washington, D.C. — Republican Leader of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered the following remarks today in a joint virtual hearing with the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. The joint hearing was with Big Tech companies, Facebook, Twitter, and Google.

Leader Rodgers told Big Tech their platforms are her biggest fear as a parent. At the beginning of this year, Leader Rodgers introduced the Big Tech Accountability Platform. A key priority in this platform is to explore and expose how Big Tech hurts children, how Big Tech contributes to suicide and anxiety, how Big Tech uses algorithms to drive addiction, and the role of Big Tech plays in child grooming and trafficking. CLICK HERE to read the platform.

Her remarks today, as prepared for delivery:

BIG TECH IS DESTRUCTIVE

10 years ago—when I joined Big Tech platforms—I thought they would be a force for good. I thought they would help us build relationships and promote transparency in Congress.

I can testify today, I was wrong. That is not what has transpired. 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.

After multiple teenage suicides in my community, I reached out to our schools and we started asking questions. What’s going on with our kids? What’s making them feel so alone? So empty and in despair?

This is what I hear over and over again from parentspediatriciansschool administratorsand teachers. They all are raising the alarm about social media.

A day doesn’t go by that I don’t talk to friends and other parents who tell me their 14-year-old is depressed. She used to love soccer.  Now, they can’t get her to do anything. She never gets off her device or leaves her room.

I think about a mom who told me she can’t leave her daughter alone EVER because she harms herself. Or the family who is recovering from almost losing their daughter to a predator she met online.

These stories are not unique to me or Eastern Washington. I recently heard of a young college student who has lost 9 friends to suicide. This is unimaginable.

The science on social media is becoming clearer. Between 2011 and 2018, rates of depressionself-harmsuicides, and suicide attempts exploded among American teens.

During that time, 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.

One study found that during that time, 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.

Other studies have found that teens who spend more time online report lower psychological well-being and more feelings of loneliness.

“Remember, our kids — the users — are the product. You  Big Tech  are not advocates for children. You exploit and profit off them.

BIG TECH RESPONSIBILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

Big Tech needs to be exposed and completely transparent for what you are doing to our children so parents like me can make informed decisions.

We also expect Big Tech to do more to protect children because you haven’t done enough. Big Tech has failed to be good stewards of your platforms.

I have two daughters and a son with a disability. Let me be clear.

“I do not want you defining what is true for them. I do not want their future manipulated by your algorithms.

I do not want their self-worth defined by the engagement tools you’ve built to own their attention. I do not want them to be in danger from what you’ve created.

I do not want their emotions and vulnerabilities taken advantage of so you can make more money and have more power. I’m sure most of my colleagues on this committee—who are also parents and grandparents—feel the same way.

Over 20 years ago, before we knew what Big Tech would become, Congress gave you liability protections. I want to knowwhy do you think you still deserve those protections today?

What will it take for your business model to stop harming children?

I know I speak for millions of moms when I say we need these answers and we will not rest until we get them.

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