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In today’s big story, we’re looking at the grilling tech CEOs got during a contentious Senate hearing, with one notable exception.
What’s on deck:
But first, we’re headed to Washington.
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The big story
Tech on trial
Tech CEOs testified in a Senate hearing that turned into the type of fiery debates found on their social-media platforms.
Executives for Meta, TikTok, X, Snapchat, and Discord were grilled by US lawmakers during a contentious Senate hearing on online child sexual exploitation.
The hearing focused on what platforms are doing to keep young users safe and included tense exchanges, Business Insider’s Aaron Mok and Camilo Fonseca write.
The most shocking moment involved Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, BI’s Lauren Steussy reports. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley asked Zuckerberg to apologize to families in attendance whose children were harmed or died from the impacts of social media.
“No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered, and this is why we invested so much,” Zuckerberg said as he stood and addressed the families.
Instagram, which is owned by Meta, came under fire last year over allegations it knowingly has millions of users under the age of 13 on its platform.
Meanwhile, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who is Singaporean, grew agitated when he was repeatedly questioned by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton about his citizenship and whether he has ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
One CEO was able to avoid a majority of the fireworks: Linda Yaccarino.
While Zuckerberg and Chew dealt with an onslaught of questions and accusations, X’s Yaccarino left the hearing relatively unscathed, BI’s Katie Notopoulos writes.
Yaccarino even touted that less than 1% of X users in the US are under 18. It’s the type of statistic most social-media companies would be embarrassed by, Katie pointed out, as young people are valuable to advertisers. (It’s also a bit misleading, Katie added, as a 2023 Pew survey found 20% of 13- to 17-year-olds use X.)
But beyond trying to generate video clips they can tout to their constituents, lawmakers sought support from tech executives for various child-safety bills.
Two of those — the “EARN IT Act” and the “STOP CSAM Act” — would enable tech companies to be sued for content on their platforms.
“There’s no commission to go to that can punish you, there’s not one law in the book [on online child safety] because you oppose everything we do, and you can’t be sued,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, told the CEOs. “That has to stop.”
We’ve seen Congress take a hard stance on Big Tech before, only to fall short of delivering actual results.
But this time — whether because of bipartisan support or the fact real legislation is in the works — things feel different. The result could be we actually see some changes, Katie writes.
3 things in markets
No rate cuts from the Fed just yet. The Federal Reserve announced another pause in interest-rate hikes on Wednesday. Chair Jerome Powell dismissed hopes that a rate cut might come by March, but some are still hopeful.
JPMorgan’s dark horse CEO candidate. Troy Rohrbaugh, JPMorgan’s new co-CEO of commercial and investment banking, has kept a fairly low profile at the bank for nearly 20 years. But his success in turning the bank’s foreign-exchange business around and his experience managing risk make him a CEO option when Jamie Dimon retires.
Commercial real estate is a sinking ship, and lenders want off. A community bank’s decision to sell a $401 million portfolio of loans at a 7% discount shows how dire the market is getting. And with $2.1 trillion of debt connected to commercial real estate coming due between now and the end of 2025, it’s likely going to ramp up.
3 things in tech
Google cofounder Larry Page bought a Puerto Rican island for $32 million. Records show that Page purchased Cayo Norte, an island east of Puerto Rico, in 2018. He used an LLC that BI previously identified as his — making it the fifth island we know belongs to Page.
Elon Musk is fighting with Delaware. After a state judge blocked his $55 billion pay deal, Musk questioned whether Tesla should change its state of incorporation to Texas. His gripe with Delaware is about more than just his massive compensation package — it’s about his ambitions for Tesla and SpaceX, too. Meanwhile, Neuralink executive Shivon Zilis, who shares twins with Musk, defended his Tesla pay package.
The White House’s AI advisor said “legislative discussions” about the tech are coming. Ben Buchanan told BI the White House wants creators of copyrighted content “appropriately compensated” when it comes to AI. Check out our full Q&A with Buchanan.
3 things in business
Media entrepreneur Byron Allen wants to buy Paramount for $14.3 billion. Wall Street doesn’t think that’s going to happen. Investors don’t think it’s worth any more than $10 billion. So why does Allen think it is?
The US economy is tops among rich countries. Outlooks for other G7 nations show slower growth and higher inflation than the US. It’s also far outperforming the world’s second-largest economy, China, which is facing several economic headwinds.
Ken Griffin sounds off on China. The hedge fund billionaire said any issues cropping up in Taiwan would be “catastrophic” for the Chinese and American economies. He was also bummed to see Chinese EV maker BYD overtake Tesla.
In other news
What’s happening today
The Insider Today team: Dan DeFrancesco, deputy editor and anchor, in New York. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Jordan Parker Erb, editor, in New York.