Blumenthal Presses TikTok, YouTube and SnapChat for Documents

Screengrab of Sen. Richard Blumenthal during tech hearing
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) (Image credit: C-SPAN)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued a pointed reminder Monday (Nov. 8) to top social media platforms that he expects them to deliver on their promises to open the books, as it were, on their internal impact studies. 

Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, wrote to TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube as a follow-up to an Oct. 26 hearing in his subcommittee at which representatives of all three testified.

Also read: Blumenthal Says Facebook Chronically Ignores Alarms

“Your representative agreed to provide me with your internal research on the mental health effects and addiction-like use of your platform by children and teens,” Blumenthal wrote in a letter to Snap. Similar letters were sent to TikTok and YouTube. “Your representative also agreed to make your platform’s datasets and algorithms accessible for independent researchers to assess these risks. Thank you for your commitment, as this transparency and access is critical to identifying possible harms to young users and preventing their devastating consequences. As the subcommittee works to draft protections for kids online, this information is also vital to our legislative efforts.”

Various bills have been introduced that could reduce Big Tech's civil liability for third party content tied to how they do or don't protect users.

A Facebook whistleblower’s documents on that company’s internal research on the impact of Instagram on young people helped generate Congress’s interest in getting access to similar documents from other platforms.

Blumenthal was particularly focused on making sure independent researchers could study the “profound risks” of their platforms, suggesting he has already drawn some conclusions.

The senator also wanted to know if they planned to withhold any information and, if so, why.

He wants answers by Nov. 24.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.