WASHINGTON, Nov 30 — Social media CEOs including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Instagram and TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew will face a grilling in the US Senate early next year over online child sexual exploitation.

Though they initially declined to attend, X’s Linda Yaccarino and the bosses of Snap and Discord will also be part of the Senate Judiciary Committee panel on January 31 after receiving subpoenas ordering their attendance.

“We’ve known from the beginning that our efforts to protect children online would be met with hesitation from Big Tech,” senators Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Republican Lindsey Graham said in a joint statement.

“They finally are being forced to acknowledge their failures when it comes to protecting kids,” they added.

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The toxic effects of social media on young people has become the latest centre of attention for lawmakers in the United States, who otherwise struggle to pass federal legislation to curb Big Tech amid political divisions and heavy lobbying by the industry.

Still, the senators’ statement noted there were five pieces of legislation with bipartisan support addressing the dangers for children online that were currently being considered.

For now, social media platforms are mainly subject to a legal onslaught in state courtrooms and legislatures.

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Meta faces a joint lawsuit by prosecutors in 33 states alleging that the company was aware its accounts were being used by underage consumers but did nothing about it.

TikTok meanwhile is facing an outright ban in the state of Montana for its links to the Chinese government.

Its use is not allowed on US government devices and the White House is currently undertaking a security review to determine whether the popular video-sharing app can still operate in the country.

TikTok chief executive Chew faced a grilling in Congress earlier this year over the company’s alleged Beijing ties. — AFP