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Senate calls TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat to hearing on protecting young users

Hearing comes after senators held hearing on Facebook's effects on its users.

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The Senate will hold a hearing on Oct. 26 with TikTok, YouTube and Snap's Snapchat to examine the platforms' impact on young users' safety, the Senate Commerce consumer protection subcommittee said Tuesday.

"Recent revelations about harm to kids online show that Big Tech is facing its Big Tobacco moment -- a moment of reckoning," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the subcommittee, said in a statement.

"We need to understand the impact of popular platforms like Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube on children and what companies can do better to keep them safe."

The hearing was announced two weeks after Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower, appeared before a US Senate subcommittee, alleging that Facebook's products "harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy." Her appearance came after she disclosed thousands of documents and internal communications that showed Facebook was aware of the dangers of its products but downplayed these effects publicly.

The hearing also focused on the impact of Facebook-owned Instagram on teens after a Wall Street Journal investigation raised serious concerns about the photo-sharing app's effect on the mental health of teens, including girls' body image. Teens also said Instagram increased rates of anxiety and depression, the Journal reported, citing company documents.

Blumenthal said he hopes the hearing leads to legislation that safeguards children and helps parents protect their children when online.

All three companies confirmed they would send representatives to attend the hearing.

"We look forward to appearing before the subcommittee to discuss our approach to protecting the safety, privacy and well being of our Snapchat community," a Snap spokesperson said.  

YouTube said Leslie Miller, vice president of Government Affairs and Public Policy, will participate in the hearing, while TikTok will be represented by Michael Beckerman, head of Public Policy for the Americas.