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Discord, Snap and X CEOs subpoenaed to testify at U.S. hearing on child exploitation

photo of Senator looking into Child Exploitation
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) arrives for a hearing with the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees on Capitol Hill in Washington. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
Senate Judiciary Committee: hearing on child exploitation is Dec. 6 at Capitol Hill
By David Shepardson | REUTERS

The CEOs of Discord, Snap, and X, formerly known as Twitter, were issued subpoenas to compel them to testify at a Dec. 6 hearing on online child sexual exploitation, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Monday.

The committee said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew are expected to voluntarily testify at a future hearing but it is not clear when.

The committee said Discord and X, owned by Elon Musk, refused to cooperate by accepting service of the subpoenas on behalf of their CEOs, “requiring the committee to enlist the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service to personally serve the subpoenas.” The committee released copies of the subpoenas served to Snap’s Evan Spiegel, Discord’s Jason Citron and X’s Linda Yaccarino.

Snap said Spiegel has already agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee “and our team is coordinating with Committee staff on potential dates. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee to discuss this vital issue.”

Wifredo Fernandez, head of US & Canada Government Affairs for X, said in a statement the company has been “working in good faith to participate in the Judiciary committee’s hearing on child protection online as safety is our top priority at X. Today we are communicating our updated availability to participate in a hearing on this important issue.”

Discord said in a statement “keeping our users safe, especially young people, is central to everything we do at Discord. We have been actively engaging with the Committee on how we can best contribute to this important industry discussion.”

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, and TikTok did not comment.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Durbin and its top Republican Lindsey Graham said the hearing will allow committee members to press CEOs from some of the biggest social media companies on their failures to protect children online.

“Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered,” said Durbin and Graham in a joint statement. “Hearing from the CEOs of some of the world’s largest social media companies will help inform the Committee’s efforts to address the crisis of online child sexual exploitation.”

Since the committee held a hearing in February, it has approved a number of bills including one that would remove tech firms’ immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws that was first proposed in 2020.

Another would establish a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention and another to modernize investigations and prosecutions of online child exploitation crimes.

Editor’s Note: reporting by David Shepardson, Jasper Ward and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Lisa Shumaker

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