X, Snap and Discord CEOs subpoenaed by lawmakers to testify about child sexual exploitation

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Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, speaks onstage during Vox Media’s 2023 Code Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California, on Sept. 27, 2023.

Jerod Harris | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Lawmakers said Monday that they have issued subpoenas to the CEOs of X, Snap and Discord to compel the executives to testify on a hearing regarding online child sexual exploitation.

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said they issued the subpoenas to the executives after “repeated refusals to appear during several weeks of negotiations.”

“Since the beginning of this Congress, our Committee has rallied around a key bipartisan issue: protecting children from the dangers of the online world,” the senators wrote in a joint statement. “It’s at the top of every parent’s mind, and Big Tech’s failure to police itself at the expense of our kids cannot go unanswered.” 

The senators said the Senate Judiciary Committee required the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service to personally serve the subpoenas to Discord and X, which they characterized as “a remarkable departure from typical practice.”

“At our February hearing on protecting children’s safety online, we promised Big Tech that they’d have their chance to explain their failures to protect kids,” Durbin and Graham wrote. “Now’s that chance. Hearing from the CEOs of some of the world’s largest social media companies will help inform the Committee’s efforts to address the crisis of online child sexual exploitation.”

Wifredo Fernandez, the head of U.S. and Canada government affairs at X, formerly known as Twitter, told CNBC in a statement that the company has “been working in good faith to participate in the Judiciary committee’s hearing on child protection online as safety is our top priority at X.”

“Today we are communicating our updated availability to participate in a hearing on this important issue,” Fernandez said.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, a company spokesperson said in an email.

“Our team is coordinating with Committee staff on potential dates,” the Snap spokesperson said. “We appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee to discuss this vital issue.”

A Discord spokesperson said that, “Keeping our users safe, especially young people, is central to everything we do at Discord.”

“We have been actively engaging with the Committee on how we can best contribute to this important industry discussion,” the Discord spokesperson said. “We welcome the opportunity to work together as an industry and with the Committee.”

The senators said they’ve also been communicating with Meta and TikTok. They said they expect Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew to testify voluntarily sometime in the New Year, a spokesperson said.

A TikTok spokesperson said “conversations with the Committee are ongoing.” 

The hearing on child safety will take place on Dec. 6.

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