NM Attorney General Torrez speaks about social media harms at town hall

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez spoke with NBC Daily News anchor Kate Snow Wednesday about the harms of social media.  Snow, a former reporter for KOAT-TV, moderated a virtual town hall about the dangers and harms that can occur to young people from social media platforms on Tuesday evening. Emma Lembke, founder of an […]

NM Attorney General Torrez speaks about social media harms at town hall

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez spoke with NBC Daily News anchor Kate Snow Wednesday about the harms of social media. 

Snow, a former reporter for KOAT-TV, moderated a virtual town hall about the dangers and harms that can occur to young people from social media platforms on Tuesday evening. Emma Lembke, founder of an organization called LOG OFF and Zamaan Qureshi, co-chair of an organization called Design It For Us, also participated as panelists alongsize Torrez. 

Snow asked Torrez, who filed a lawsuit late last year against Meta, the owner of Facebook, and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg what some of his biggest concerns are. 

Torrez said it was that “big tech” and social media platforms “are failing to protect our most vulnerable.” He said social media platforms provide a space for sexual predators to target, harass and groom children and young people and that the platforms are not doing enough to prevent it. 

Lembke said she opened her first social media account when she was 12 years old and did so because her friends were on social media. She said that the social media platforms she used fed her harmful content, that she was barraged with what she called pro-anorexic content. She said the harms can have long-lasting impacts on a person’s sense of self. 

Qureshi cofounded Design It For Us, an organization aimed at bringing young people together to advocate, about a year ago. He called the early years of social media “the Wild West” and said that parents didn’t know about the content their kids were consuming or how to respond. He said young people coming of age now, who grew up with social media were “exposed to the worst of the worst,” in terms of online content. 

“This is why we need lawsuits and policies to force these companies. They haven’t acted on their own,” Qureshi said. 

Torrez said the current federal law regulating social media platforms is 30 years old and was enacted when message boards were the dominant form of online social interaction. He said that the law was really talking about the liability of message boards and, at that point, social media platforms did not exist. 

Torrez said government has to “keep up the pace with innovation” otherwise, “new harms will emerge.”

To emphasize Torrez’s point, Snow brought up artificial intelligence. Qureshi said there should be third-party auditing and a requirement for AI companies to produce transparent guidelines on how AI was tested and used.

Torrez said providing safety for children and young people on social media platforms is a bipartisan issue. He said he would like to see social media establish age verification as one way to improve safety from harmful content and predatory behavior.

He said social media can increase the risk of anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicide ideation and potentially connect predators to children. He said that if phones came with warning labels and parents had to click “yes” to such a warning label before their children could download an app, then usage “would go to the floor because no one would do it.”

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