Dangerous by Design: How Social Media Companies Are Hurting Our Kids, National Security, and Democracy — and What We Can Do About It

Dec 18, 2023
  • Description

Americans of all political persuasions are right to be concerned about unchecked social media. Manipulative social media products are robbing children of their social skills, human relationships, and childhood innocence, and our children's mental health is at a crisis point. Our adversaries are using the online information environment to fundamentally undermine U.S. national security and attempt to weaken our bedrock principles of freedom and self-determination. Our private data is pervasively monitored, sold, and used to suck us in, keeping our attention fixed on social media platforms for profit. Social media platforms push us deeper and deeper into information silos that are not reflective of reality and divide us — at dinner tables, in the workplace, and on Capitol Hill — making political compromise a near impossibility. No democracy can survive such an assault. 

As an industry, social media is largely unregulated, and social media companies are free of any liability for the harms they cause. Moreover, the rise of next generation artificial intelligence (AI) will make everything that's bad about social media worse, offering targeted opportunities for tech companies to profit from our addiction while leaving behind swaths of destruction.

This isn't a future technology crisis. It's happening now. It's clear the initial promises of social media are now outweighed by the harms. But this crisis can be averted. It's time for Congress to act with legislation to tip the scale toward citizens by creating commonsense safeguards for social media companies. As a nation, we need a more responsible social media environment that supports and enhances a healthy democracy and civil society. With responsible design and operations, social media technologies can nourish, rather than erode, our society, our well-being, and our democracy.