Push to Hold Social Media Companies Accountable for Child Exploitation Organized by The Mama Bear Effect

Petition Launched to Raise Public Awareness and Support for the Senate Judiciary Committee to Prioritize Child Protection Online

Child on Smartphone in the Dark

Advocacy organizations and citizens are rallying together to make their voices heard as big tech social media CEOs are being called to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for January to testify in response to the recognized failures to protect children online. Numerous platforms rated as recommended for age 13 years and older have been shown to enable child predators in luring child victims into abusive relationships, sexually exploit and blackmail children who ultimately commit suicide, and enable predator networks to connect and grow in numbers. 

Work done by organizations to educate parents and children regarding the dangers of social media is, arguably, insufficient. Internet Crimes Against Children task forces cannot keep up with 32 million reports of suspected online child exploitation filed in 2022 through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Numerous cases of children dying by suicide as a result of online sextortion exemplify the extreme harm that can result from social media platforms failing to protect children. 

In November, whistleblower Arturo Béjar, the former Director of Engineering for Protect and Care at Facebook, testified that the mounting evidence that Meta’s platforms negatively impacted the mental health and safety of children was mostly ignored. In this same month, social media platform Omegle was shut down in response to numerous lawsuits — a platform with the tagline of "Talk to Strangers!" that was exposed for connecting children to predators and sexual content since its inception in 2009. 

Adrianne Simeone, founder of The Mama Bear Effect, an organization committed to raising awareness for the prevention of child sexual abuse, launched a new webpage, Say No to Social Media for Kids, and had this to say regarding the upcoming hearing: 

"These platforms should not be allowed to claim an age rating of 13+ if they cannot sustain an environment that prioritizes the safety of child users; instead, these social media companies have blatantly enabled child exploitation for years — there is no excuse for such inaction. Keeping children safe from sexual abuse has only become harder now that predators can abuse children right through their own devices." 

Simeone and other organizations (Freedom Forever, Prevention Starts with Parents and Mom Army) have launched a petition for concerned citizens to voice their concern and demand stronger child protection and safety standards for social media platforms. 

Seak Smith, founder of MOM & DAD Army, shared her concern. "Our children are in a crisis, and so much of this destruction is fueled by social media and the dangers that lurk on the other side of screens. As a survivor-led organization, we are in full support of efforts to put age restrictions and limit social media usage to adults 18 and above." The Senate hearing is set for Jan. 31, 2024. 

Source: The Mama Bear Effect