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The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Their kids’ deaths were tied to social media. They want Congress to act.

The Technology 202

A newsletter briefing on the intersection of technology and politics.

Happy Wednesday! We’d like to tip our hats to the incredible team of journalists at Protocol, who delivered tons of insightful and dogged policy reporting in recent years. 

Below: Elon Musk delays the relaunch of Twitter Blue, and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray discusses his concerns about TikTok. Below:

Their kids’ deaths were tied to social media. They want Congress to act.

Maurine Molak says her son David, then 16, took his own life after facing months of cyberbullying on social media platforms, which were slow to respond to their reports. 

“He could not make it stop. I couldn't make it stop,” she said during an interview Tuesday.

Now, she and dozens of parents whose children died or were harmed due to incidents linked to social media are calling on Congress to step in and pass legislation that some say could have prevented their tragedies.  

On Monday, dozens of parents urged congressional leaders in a letter to pass by the end of the year two proposals that would force tech companies to implement stronger safety protections for children online and to take steps to safeguard their personal information. And this week, many of them are scheduled to meet with top lawmakers in Washington to demand swift action. 

The push focuses on the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act — two bills that cleared a key committee hurdle earlier this year. Together, the measures would give parents greater control over their children’s online activity, require that companies implement kids’ safeguards by default and expand restrictions on what data they can collect from users 13 to 16 years old. 

One of the bills would also create a new dedicated channel for parents to report potential harmful incidents to tech platforms. Molak said that had that been in place earlier, some of their children’s lives may have been spared. 

“We have hundreds of parents that reach out to us every year in crisis because there's social media posts out there, where they're talking about sharing rumors about kids, racially motivated cyberbullying that's occurring, and parents have no way of being able to shut it down,” she said.

Many major social media platforms prohibit bullying or harassment, but several of the parents said that too often their reports have fallen on deaf ears in Silicon Valley.

“The social media companies are not doing enough to prevent it, and this bill will hold them accountable for that,” said Deb Schmill, who said her daughter Becca died of fentanyl poisoning from drugs that she and a friend used social media to find. 

Organizers said the group is slated to meet this week with the offices of several top lawmakers who could decide the fate of the legislation, including Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Commerce ranking Republican Roger Wicker (Miss.), and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.).

They were also set to meet with the Federal Trade Commission’s Alvaro Bedoya and Christine Wilson, who have outlined children’s online safety as a priority for the agency.

While the parents are hoping their pleas will resonate with lawmakers, their biggest hurdles are policy and political disagreements that continue to bog down legislative talks. 

The Senate and House remain on different tracks on kids’ online safety legislation.

While the Senate Commerce Committee in July advanced the two children-focused proposals that the parents are urging lawmakers to pass, the House has forged ahead on a separate, broader data privacy bill that includes heightened protections for kids’ personal data, known as the American Data Privacy and Protection Act.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee reaffirmed its commitment on Tuesday to advancing privacy guardrails for all consumers, not just kids.

“Chairman Pallone is focused on passing the comprehensive American Data Privacy and Protection Act before the end of the year, which includes historic online privacy protections for kids and teens,” spokesman C.J. Young said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who is leading the separate children’s online safety measure, said his priority is getting that proposal signed into law. 

“I'm focused on this bill. This bill is my personal priority. I've worked on a comprehensive privacy bill. All in favor of it. There's still some obstacles to it. This bill is doable. … We need to do this bill,” Blumenthal, speaking at a news conference alongside the parents, told reporters.

He added, “I will be deeply disappointed and angry if we fail to do this.”

While the Kids Online Safety Act does not yet have a counterpart bill in the House, its proponents in the Senate said they are looking at many ways to move it during the lame duck, including potentially attaching it to must-pass legislation like the omnibus.

“I think it's fair to say we're looking for an expedient pathway, and I don't think we know exactly what that expedient pathway will be,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is co-sponsoring the bill with Blumenthal. 

“But this is a powerful group and I am so pleased they're here to help push for this,” she said of the parents.

Our top tabs

Musk issues ultimatum to staff and delays relaunch of Twitter Blue, which attracted adult accounts and crypto enthusiasts

Twitter owner Elon Musk issued an ultimatum to Twitter employees Wednesday morning: commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter or leave the company with severance pay. The ultimatum came as he also delayed the relaunch of Twitter Blue until Nov. 29 after a botched rollout that saw fake blue-chip brands tweeting crude jokes after paying $8 for blue check marks, Jeremy B. Merrill and Faiz Siddiqui report. About 150,000 users were subscribed to the service when it was paused, putting the annual revenue from the service at just $14.4 million. 

Twitter has promised to show users who pay $8 a month half as many ads. But the company would need to charge $44 a month to recoup those advertising dollars, according to an internal document reviewed by The Post.

“Most of the members of a list of some 135,000 Twitter Blue subscribers compiled by Berlin software developer Travis Brown and reviewed by The Post were ordinary users with a few hundred followers who had been on the site for more than six years,” my colleagues write. “Nearly a quarter of the accounts with more than 250,000 followers that were verified via Twitter Blue were pornography or adult-oriented accounts. Twitter, unlike many other social networks, allows sexually explicit imagery,” and many adult performers on Twitter use the site to attract new paying customers, they write.

Musk’s ultimatum to employees came in a midnight email. Musk said Twitter “will need to be extremely hardcore” going forward. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity,” he said. “Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.” He set a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline for people to commit.

FBI has national security concerns about TikTok, Wray says

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray told lawmakers at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing that the FBI has “national security concerns” about the popular video app, including the Chinese government’s potential ability to collect data on users or control the app’s algorithms or software. TikTok, which has denied that it poses such a threat, has agreed on some initial terms for a deal with the U.S. government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), but the deal isn’t close to a clear outcome, my colleagues reported last month.

“The FBI's foreign investment unit working through the Department of Justice is part of the CFIUS process and would be relevant,” Wray said in response to questions from Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.). “Our input would be taken into account in any agreements that might be made to address the issue.”

Oversight Board, weighing in on Ukrainian war post, rebukes Facebook

Facebook parent Meta’s Oversight Board overturned Facebook’s decision to remove a post likening Russian soldiers who invaded Ukraine to Nazis, Naomi Nix reports. The board said the post — which also contained an image appearing to show a dead body in Bucha, Ukraine, and quoted a poem calling for fascists to be killed — didn’t violate Facebook’s content rules or human rights responsibilities.

“In this context, neither Meta’s human rights responsibilities nor its Hate Speech Community Standard protect soldiers from claims of egregious wrongdoing or prevent provocative comparisons between their actions and past events,” the board wrote in its ruling.

The ruling marks a rare rebuke by the Oversight Board of Meta’s response to a flood of posts on the war in Ukraine. “The Oversight Board had previously expressed interest in weighing in the company’s evolving policies regarding content about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but was rebuffed,” Naomi writes.

Rant and rave

Twitter users discussed Musk’s firings of employees who reportedly criticized Musk on Slack. Writer Bobby Lewis:

Journalist and historian Garrett M. Graff:

Author and critic Ella Dawson:

Inside the industry

Meta's India public policy chief, WhatsApp's India boss quit (Reuters)

Facebook reminds fact-checkers Trump is off limits if he says he's running again for president (CNN)

Workforce report

Microsoft to adopt new sexual harassment policies after Gates, misconduct audit (Bloomberg News)

The curious case of FTX’s ‘company therapist’ (Motherboard)

Hill happenings

Lawmakers return FTX money (Politico)


People are leaving Twitter for...the Matt Hancock app? (Wall Street Journal)


  • Asad Ramzanali, the director of legislative affairs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will be OSTP’s chief of staff. Ramzanali was previously an aide to Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).
  • Matthew Lenz is joining BSA | The Software Alliance as the organization’s senior director for state advocacy. Lenz previously worked for the Entertainment Software Association, the Toy Association and the office of Rhode Island’s attorney general.


  • The Center for Democracy and Technology hosts an event on online harassment and targeted disinformation aimed at women of color candidates in U.S. elections on Wednesday at 11 a.m.
  • Doreen Bogdan-Martin, the newly elected secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union, and National Archives and Records Administration innovation chief Pamela Wright speak at an American University event on Friday at 8:30 a.m.

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