On Wednesday, the mothers of three children whose lives were severely impacted by the negative effects of social media attended an emotional Senate panel hearing on Wednesday, coming face to face with the billionaire CEOs of the tech companies that they allege led to many of their children’s problems.
Riley Basford and Grace McComas, both 15, were “goofy, silly” kids who had been attending church and starting new jobs when they suddenly began being bullied and harassed online, leading to a downward spiral that led to them taking their own lives.
Mariam Fawzi was a high school athlete that found herself watching pro-eating disorder content on TikTok and Facebook, leading to her being airlifted to a hospital due to severe anorexia.
“This is not going to stop, and more kids are gonna die and more kids are gonna get hurt,” said Mariam’s mother, Neveen Radwan, who’s made three trips to DC to lobby legislators to take more strenuous action.
Radwan, as well as the mothers of Riley and Grace, attended Wednesday’s Senate hearing, where the executives were grilled over their failure to protect children who are users on their platforms.
“Every time a group of parents comes out, different parents join us because more kids are dying,” Radwan said.
The parents have been responsible for pushing legislation aimed at putting an end to the issues that children face. However, progress has been slow, even as lawmakers acknowledge the severity of the issue, described by the panel’s chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) as a “crisis in America.”
“The longer this takes, the worse it’s going to be,” Radwan argued. “The numbers are going to keep growing because this is an ongoing problem.”
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok CEO Shou Chew, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel, and Discord CEO Jason Citron were among the CEOs in attendance at the hearing, which saw the parents of the three children speak on their children’s struggles.
“As a parent who has lost my child so long ago at this point, it angers me a lot that nothing has been done in all of these years. And every time they decide not to do it, if they punt on it, or they don’t take action, I just know more kids will be harmed or killed,” said Christine McComas, whose daughter Grace took her own life in 2012 after a lengthy cyberbullying campaign.
McComas’ daughter was the inspiration for Maryland’s “Grace’s Law” which criminalized the use of internet communications to harass or intimidate a minor.
“You can’t look away from grieving parents who want change,” McComas said. “We’re all united not only in our grief but in our commitment that this shouldn’t happen to anybody else.”
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