Maria Bartiromo vs social media

Fox Nation, the online streaming counterpart to Fox News, recently dropped a new investigative series by Maria Bartiromo called Killer Apps. The program digs into the rise of dangerous social media trends, internet addiction, and the facilitation of trafficking via social media.

The Spectator World caught up with Bartiromo about her new show.

Amber Athey: What was the inspiration behind your deep dive into the dangers of social media? What do you hope to achieve with this investigation?

Maria Bartiromo: One trigger was what appeared to be dangerous “challenges” going viral on social media, such as ‘who can swallow the most laundry detergent?’ or ‘who can tie a belt around your neck and see how long you can stop breathing?’

We also heard from lawmakers drafting legislation and state attorneys general regarding their probes into the impact social media was having on young people. Parents were skeptical of the long screen time their kids were having online and its impact on depression and even worse, suicide. They complained about body shaming, challenges and an onslaught of damaging content. Also, reports of surveillance, data gathering and damaging content.

Also disturbing was the exploitation we saw from dangerous drug cartels using social media to lure young kids into criminal activity. This we saw at the southern border — which I have been to three times in the last year and first visited in 2019. We hope to put a spotlight on any negative impact from social media to help young people and families.

There are currently active investigations and possible pending legislation coming to address these issues. One of the lawmakers drafting the bill, Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn is in the piece and says her bipartisan bill will come up soon for a senate vote.

AA: What makes young people in particular so susceptible to social media peer pressure and addiction?

MB: They are viewing this content at vulnerable ages; some do not understand the impact of peer pressure.

AA: What role does Big Tech play in promoting dangerous content? Is there a profit incentive?

MB: They want young people to spend more time online and the Facebook whistleblower, Ms. Haugen, reported these companies have seen the research indicating the addiction of this content but did nothing about it. They are using data and selling it to advertisers so that advertisers can target specific customers, ie when you are searching for sneakers and the search results are shared directly with Nike, Nike can send you an ad at that very moment you are searching for sneakers. It’s too much information given out. They are also tracking what you search for.

AA: What kind of regulation is being proposed? Are there any free speech concerns being raised in response?

MB: Senators Marsha Blackburn and Richard Blumenthal have introduced legislation in congress where Blumenthal is chairman of consumer protection in the commerce subcommittee. He was the attorney general of Connecticut and saw this as an issue then as well. They told me the bill addresses the most significant concerns for keeping kids safe online.

One provision looks to protect data. They told me that when kids are on TikTok and Snapchat they have features that allow you to designate your location, and a predator who is trying to lure teenage boys into a bad relationship — like a drug-based relationship, buying and selling — can have access to this important private information of his location. So, those protections for time and place for data need to be addressed.

Their bill also can force a “duty of care” onto these platforms, which would mean an ability to send the cases to the FTC and to the states AGs.

There is also a provision that requires the tech companies to be upfront with their algorithms. For example, Blackburn said, “We learned about the Google Chromebooks — people realized Google would give everyone Chromebooks. But then the parents would see a massive amount of spam coming into their accounts and it was all based on the data Google was getting from these Chromebooks and sharing with advertisers.” She also said she heard very often about sex trafficking and human trafficking groups easily found on Big Tech.

aa: Do you agree with critics of regulation that parents should also have a responsibility to monitor what their children are doing online?

MB: Yes, parents also need to be aware and mindful of what is taking place.

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