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Design It For Us Advocates Attend Big Tech CEO Hearing, Co-host Rally To ‘Protect Kids Online’

Youth leaders demand that platforms are designed with young people in mind, not the company’s bottom line.

WASHINGTON, DC — Design It For Us, a youth-led coalition, organized a day of advocacy to demonstrate a grassroots demand for Congress to urgently act to protect kids and teens online. Our actions conveyed the broad, bipartisan public call for accountability from the CEOs of Meta, X, Snap, TikTok, and Discord as they made their highly anticipated appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on their failure to protect young people from the online harms of social media. The hearing was the 42nd since 2017 to feature executives from major social media companies, with virtually no congressional action to follow. 

Confronting Zuckerberg

Youth advocates representing Design It For Us started the day of advocacy positioned outside the Dirksen Senate Office Building to confront Mark Zuckerberg on his way into the hearing. Design It For Us Core Team Member Arielle Geismar challenged Zuckerberg asking: “Why did you cover up causing eating disorders, Mr. Zuckerberg? What are you doing to protect kids online?” 

“I’m worth more than $270”

Twenty Design It For Us advocates were present inside the committee room, wearing black t-shirts that said “I’m worth more than $270” – a reference to Meta’s estimated lifetime value of a young person to the company. Senator Marsha Blackburn called attention to the advocates in a heated exchange with Mark Zuckerberg, saying “How could you possibly even have that thought? It is astounding to me… Children are not your priority. Children are your product.” Senator Blackburn and our youth advocates garnered applause from those in the room and the Senator directed Mark Zuckerberg to look behind him at our advocates standing up in the hearing room.

“It was such a surreal experience to hear – in the middle of a hearing – a Senator implore Mark Zuckerberg to turn around and face us,” said Design It For Us advocate Yoelle Gulko. “He looked me dead in the eye and darted his eyes away, but I kept staring him down. Because unlike him, I won’t look away.”

Rally at the Capitol

Following the hearing, Design It For Us and Accountable Tech co-hosted a rally outside the U.S. Capitol to call for immediate action on kids’ safety legislation. The rally was streamed on C-SPAN. We were joined by Senator Ed Markey, lead sponsor of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) 2.0; Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn, lead sponsors of the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA); New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez who is leading a lawsuit against Meta’s harms to children; and Arturo Béjar, the latest Meta whistleblower who testified before Congress in November. 

Design It For Us co-chair Zamaan Qureshi, youth advocates and Design It For Us leaders Ava Smithing and Arielle Geismar, survivor parents Joann Bogard and Kristin Bride, and representatives from other partner organizations including Public Citizen and Ekō also spoke at the rally. 

“X and Snap’s endorsement of KOSA is meaningless when they continue to fund groups like NetChoice who are lobbying to defeat common sense, bipartisan legislation that will protect my generation online,” said Design It For Us co-chair Zamaan Qureshi.

“As a digital native who has long awaited meaningful, bipartisan action against Big Tech, attending Wednesday’s hearing was historic,” said Design It For Us advocate Matthew Allaire. “The energy brought to Capitol Hill by impassioned parents, children, and lawmakers is a harbinger of a safer digital world for young people.”

Download photos of the rally HERE 


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