Press Release

Welch Questions Big Tech CEOs During Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing 

Jan 31, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) questioned Big Tech CEOs about the companies’ persistent failures to protect children online and the need for an independent watchdog to oversee Big Tech. Senator Welch co-leads with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) the Digital Platform Commission Act, a bill to establish an expert and independent federal agency to regulate the tech industry.   

“There is a consensus today that didn’t exist, say, ten years ago, that there is a profound threat to children, to mental health, to safety. There’s not a dispute…I appreciate the industry standard decision and steps you’ve taken in your companies, but it’s not enough,” said Sen. Welch. “We’re identifying concrete things that can be done in four different areas: One is industry standards. Two is legislation. Three are the courts. And then four is a proposal that Senator Bennet, Senator Graham, myself, and Senator Warren have to establish a governmental agency whose responsibility would be to engage in this on a systematic, regular basis with proper resources.” 

In response to questioning from Senator Welch, the witnesses acknowledged the need for an independent regulatory body able to keep pace with developments in the industry. 

Big Tech CEOs present at Wednesday’s hearing included: 

  • Linda Yaccarino, Chief Executive Officer, X Corp. 
  • Shou Chew, Chief Executive Officer, TikTok Inc. 
  • Evan Spiegel, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Snap Inc. 
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Meta 
  • Jason Citron, Chief Executive Officer, Discord Inc. 

The CEOs of X, Snap, and Discord appeared under congressional subpoena after not fully cooperating with the Committee’s requests. 

The number of children being exploited and abused online continues to increase at an alarming rate around the globe. In 2021, the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program received 452 CyberTips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an increase from 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont experienced a 150% increase in reported child exploitation and attempted exploitation online.  

Senator Welch is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), legislation that works to provide families with the resources they need that are instrumental in protecting their children’s health and welfare online. The Senator is also a cosponsor of the bipartisan Invest in Child Safety Act, which directs more than $5 billion in mandatory funding to investigate and target the predators and abusers who create and share child sexual abuse material online.  

In June, Sen. Welch and fellow Judiciary Committee Members Sens. Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chair Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and X CEO Linda Yaccarino asking how layoffs at their companies would impact their ability to monitor and respond to election-related misinformation, included deceptive AI-generated content about elections and campaigns during the 2024 cycle. 

Watch Senator Welch’s full remarks here