- At the Senate hearing on child exploitation and social media, X CEO Linda Yaccarino wasn’t grilled like her peers.
- Most of the focus was on Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.
- Yaccarino said that less than 1% of X users in the US are under the age of 18.
The most remarkable moment of the Senate hearing where five tech CEOs testified about child exploitation was when Mark Zuckerberg was forced to stand up, turn around, and face the audience full of parents of children who had been harmed or died from suicide — and apologize.
Zuckerberg bore the brunt of the grilling, especially over the fact that an email sent by a Facebook executive in 2021 asking for more staff to work on teen well-being was apparently ignored by Zuckerberg. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew also was frequently put in the hot seat, but a big chunk of that was over the app’s ties to China, not teen safety.
But Yaccarino, who has stumbled under questioning about X’s business by far more friendly interviewers, managed to get out of the hearing relatively unscathed.
In her opening remarks, Yaccarino proudly said that X does not cater to teens and children and dropped a shocking statistic: Less than 1% of X users in the US are under 18.
It’s unclear how X tracks user ages, and BI couldn’t independently verify this statistic.
One way or the other, such a dismal performance with young people is something social media companies usually would dread admitting — teen and younger demographics are valuable to advertisers, and popularity with teens has long been considered a yardstick for the vitality of social media platforms. The greying of Facebook, for example, has been of concern to Meta.
Yaccarino’s statistic comes with an asterisk, however. Although it may be true that X has far more adults than teens, that doesn’t mean that teens hardly use X. According to a 2023 Pew survey, 20% of 13- to 17-year-olds use X.
Yaccarino got one more soft landing on a tough question about how the various platforms have invested in trust and safety.
Sen. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, brought up concerns about how tech layoffs have affected trust-and-safety teams. X just announced that it would be adding 100 trust-and-safety employees based in Austin, and Welch asked Yaccarino how many of those kinds of employees X had “before.”
This, of course, is a trick question. It’s widely known that when Elon Musk took over Twitter in 2022, he gutted the trust-and-safety and content-moderation teams.
Instead, Yaccarino replied, “the company is just coming through a significant restructuring, so we’ve increased the number of trust-and-safety employees across the world in the last 14 months.”
The math … is mathing.
Yaccarino and X avoided embarrassment at the hearings, but that doesn’t mean that these problems aren’t their problems.
Indeed, X has stumbled with handling child exploitation material even as Musk said it was a top priority.
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