YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat promise to reveal data re their impact on kids

Washington, Oct 26 (EFE).- Representatives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat on Tuesday promised to provide to the US Congress all internal information the social media firms may have about the impact of their products on the mental health of minors.

That promise of transparency comes after a former Facebook employee revealed that that firm and other platforms it owns, such as Instagram, hid information about the way in which the social networks can addict children to their products or damage the perception that kids have of themselves.

In a Senate subcommittee hearing, Democratic lawmaker Richard Blumenthal asked the YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat executives whether, like Facebook, they had evaluated the impact of their products on minors and extracted from them the promise to provide Congress with any information they have on the subject.

“I understand from your testimony that your defense is, ‘We’re not Facebook. We’re different, and we’re different from each other,'” Blumenthal said.

“Being different from Facebook is not a defense. That bar is in the gutter. … What we want is not a race to the bottom, but really a race to the top,” the senator added, going on to say that Congress would expect the firms’ information within “weeks, not months.”

In response to the senator’s questions, the vice president for global public policy for Snap – which is owned by Snapchat – Jennifer Stout, explained that internal investigations conducted by her firm had concluded that 95 percent of users say that the social network makes them “happy” because it allows them to connect with their friends.

Meanwhile, TikTok’s vice president for the US, Michael Beckerman, said that those investigations into the impact of the social networks on the mental health of teens should be done in a “transparent” manner by experts who do not work for – and who are independent of – the company.

He suggested, for example, the possibility that those studies could be made in cooperation with the National Institutes of Health, the US government agency tasked with conducting medical research.

The vice president of YouTube – which is owned by Google – Leslie Miller, said that her platform already has published several analyses of this kind and that it will soon release more information.

She said that YouTube is committed to protecting minors and that in just the first half of this year it removed from the network 120,000 videos with sexual content involving children and teens.

The platform, in addition, is working to improve an app exclusively devoted to kids called “YouTube Kids,” which was launched in 2015 with the aim of preventing harmful content from appearing on the network.

The Tuesday subcommittee session to protect children in their online activities comes at a time when Democrats and Republicans in Congress have increased their scrutiny of the social networks and are pushing for assorted laws to regulate the sector.

The session is also the first one at which representatives of TikTok and Snapchat have testified before Congress.

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