GOP lawmakers press social media giants for data on impacts on children's mental health

GOP lawmakers press social media giants for data on impacts on children's mental health
© Greg Nash

Four Republican lawmakers are pressing social media giants for data on the impact their products have on children’s mental health.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersHillicon Valley — Biden's misinformation warning Lawmakers call on tech firms to take threat of suicide site seriously, limit its visibility Lawmakers focus on bridging broadband divide highlighted amid pandemic MORE (Wash.), who is the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent letters to Facebook, Twitter and Google on Tuesday asking for the information by April 16.

The lawmakers asked for internal research or communications the companies have on the impacts of their products on those under the age of 13, as well as those between the ages of 13 and 18. They also asked the companies to identify outside contractors they have worked with or are working with to study the effect of the company on mental health for each age range.

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The lawmakers also asked for data that the companies have regarding the impact of their competitors’ products on the mental health of those aged 18 and under.

The letter to Google also requested data on YouTube and YouTube Kids. The letter to Facebook included data requests on Instagram, which is planning on making a version for those under the age of 13.

The other lawmakers that signed the letters were Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and Morgan GriffithHoward (Morgan) Morgan GriffithHillicon Valley — Biden's misinformation warning Lawmakers call on tech firms to take threat of suicide site seriously, limit its visibility With overdoses at a record high, we must crack down on fentanyl-related substances MORE (R- Va.).

In a statement to The Hill, a Google spokeswoman said "we know parents care deeply about how best to manage their kids' use of technology. That's why we build our products with robust child safety product and policy measures baked in from the outset. We also offer parents a range of tools including Family Link, which allows parents to manage screen time on Android devices, and YouTube Kids, which curates family-friendly content with built-in time limits.”

Facebook didn't directly comment on the letter, but noted that the company supports the CAMRA Act, a bipartisan bill that authorizes the National Institutes of Health to research the impacts of technology on children, teens and adolescents. The company also noted that it is supporting a Digital Wellness Lab at Children's Hospital in Boston which is aimed at addressing some of the issues the lawmakers brought up.

A Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Hill that the company has received the letter and intend to respond. 

The letters come roughly a week after the companies’ CEOs testified before the committee over their platforms' roles in organizing the deadly Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. During the hearing, Republicans laid into the companies over their products’ impact on children.

“Your platforms are my biggest fear as a parent,” McMorris Rodgers said in the hearing. “Remember, our kids, the users, are the product. You — Big Tech — are not advocates for children. You exploit and profit off them.”