Durbin Delivers Opening Statement During Judiciary Committee Hearing On Children’s Online Safety

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered an opening statement at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled “Protecting Our Children Online.” The hearing will examine the challenge of ensuring online child safety and privacy, with witnesses testifying to the risks, threats, and harms that children face in the online world.

Key quotes: 

“The online world offers tremendous opportunities and benefits.  But, it also poses serious risks and dangers to our children.  In almost every aspect of the real world, child safety is a top priority.  We lock the door and teach our kids not to talk to strangers.  But in the virtual world, criminals and bullies don’t need to pick a lock or wait outside the playground to cause harm.  They can reach our children through social media apps like Facebook and Snapchat. And they can harass, intimidate, addict, or sexually exploit our kids without anyone leaving home.”

“As too many families know, cyberbullying—which is often relentless, cruel, and anonymous—can lead to tragic results.  Social media can also cause a variety of mental health problems in teenagers, including anxiety, depression, stress, and body image issues.  This has been well documented, and the Big Tech companies know it.  But despite all these known risks and harms, online platforms are doing everything they can to keep our kids’ eyes glued to their screens.  In the process, they are vacuuming up tons of data that they use to build profiles and target our kids with even more ads and content.  It’s a lucrative business, but it is compromising our children’s privacy, safety, and health.  We shouldn’t stand for it.” 

“Today’s discussion builds upon years of important work by this Committee.  Ranking Member Graham held important hearings on this issue when he chaired this Committee, and I thank him for his partnership in organizing today’s hearing.  We should consider it a call to action.  There are a number of good legislative proposals to protect our kids, such as the EARN IT Act, which enjoys strong bipartisan support in this Committee.  Additionally, for months, I’ve been working on a comprehensive bill to close gaps in the law and crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online: the STOP CSAM Act.  Today I’ll be putting out a discussion draft of this legislation and I plan to move forward with it in Committee soon.” 

“I look forward to hearing our witnesses’ ideas for reform, and I hope they can provide the basis for advancing legislation through this Committee and ultimately to the President’s desk to be signed into law.” 

“Like we do in the real world, we need to protect our kids in the virtual world.  This is not a partisan issue—it’s an issue that keeps parents and children up at night.  It deserves the focus of this Committee and this Congress.  And it deserves action.”

Video of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s opening statement is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s opening statement is available here for TV Stations.