As the CEOs of major tech companies TikTok, Snap, Meta, X, and Discord are testifying this week in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on what it calls their “failure to protect children online,” one mom is suing some of them after her 11-year-old daughter committed suicide after she was exploited by sexual predators on social media.
Tammy Rodriguez said she didn’t know until after her daughter Selena died how extensive her social media addiction was.
“I had no idea that it could get to that. I would have never let her have it in the beginning,” she told CBS News. “These are all things that are all hidden in the background. That, you know, it seems like these big tech companies, they know exactly how to make it work for them. And the parents don’t know what’s going on.”
She said Selena’s social media use was innocent at first.
“I would let her take Snapchat pictures, you know with the pictures with the filters, and we would save it to the phone, and you know, wasn’t anything more than that,” she explained. “Or TikTok? I would let her do the dances and it would just be saved to the drafts, which was fine. Everything was private. I made sure it was all private on there.”
After Selena died, though, Rodriguez learned that she had seven Instagram accounts, and men were contacting her on the platform to “exploit her.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony from the CEOs this week as it looks to amend laws that shield social media companies from being sued by their users.
“The parents are fighting a losing battle,” Democratic committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin said. “Parents doing their very best cannot keep up with this technology. And these companies have the singular responsibility to police this.”
He added, “This is certainly an issue which transcends politics. This is personal. This is for families. There’s so much sexual exploitation of children going on on the internet that I think everyone feels that we need to do something, and quickly.”
After Selena died, Rodriguez filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Meta and Snap. She alleges the companies designed “defective products that caused serious injuries to users.”
“They need to be held accountable in Congress, and they need to be held accountable to the families who have lost a child at their hands,” she said.