Gus Bilirakis: Social media companies aren’t doing enough to fight cyberbullying
This week, the United States Rep. Gus BilirakisR-Fla., the best Republican in the U.S. House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommitteecalled on social media companies to do more to combat cyberbullying.
Bilirakis focused on the issue during a meeting with educators and parents this week in Pasco County.
“There has been a disturbing increase in rates of depression, self-harm, suicide attempts and death among adolescents. New research shows that 46% of all American teens say they use the internet “almost constantly” and 97% say they use it daily. Other studies have linked screen time to an increased risk of suicide. Experts suggest that teens who post content on social media are also at risk of sharing intimate photos or very personal stories, which can lead to bullying, harassment or even blackmail among teens. Local law enforcement confirms this is a significant and growing concern throughout Pasco County,” the congressman’s office noted.
“Adolescents navigate by being constantly connected through devices, and their reality is a mix of virtual and real experiences, which can exacerbate isolation and negative social interactions such as bullying,” Bilirakis said. “Tragically, a high school student in my district committed suicide just a few weeks ago. The investigation into her death showed that she was the victim of vicious cyberbullying on social media platforms. had no idea this was happening. The stats and stories are deeply disturbing, and I’m growing frustrated that social media companies aren’t doing enough to help.
“We need to take action to hold Big Tech accountable, force them to protect children on their platforms, and seek transparency so parents can make informed decisions,” Bilirakis added.
The congressman pointed to a series of proposals from the GOP Big Tech task force and his own bill as possible solutions. Bilirakis introduced the “Law on Cooperation between Police, Technology and Users to Resist Exploitation (CAPTURE)which “establishes a foundation for stronger coordination between law enforcement and Big Tech as entities work to combat illegal activity on social media platforms.” But, despite a hearing on the bill during from a meeting of the U.S. Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce in early March, the bill hasn’t gained much traction without co-sponsors and a backstop at the US Senate..
“Too often we see bad actors using social media platforms to facilitate crime by luring in and exploiting children and other vulnerable populations,” Bilirakis said. “The law enforcement community then faces unnecessary obstacles when trying to investigate these crimes. We need to remove barriers to keep children safe.
The congressman said events like the one held in Pasco County this week are helpful.
“The stories shared by local parents and teachers tonight were heartbreaking. Their contribution will be essential to help us strengthen our legislative proposals. We will no longer allow Big Tech to ignore the damage their platforms are causing to our children,” Bilirakis said.
Pasco County School Administrator, Dr. John Legga former state legislator, hosted the event and applauded the congressman’s efforts.
“Every day at school we see the negative effects of social media on the mental health of our children. I commend Congressman Bilirakis for tackling this critical issue head-on; the future of our students hangs in the balance,” Legg said.