Executives from Snap and TikTok testified for the first time before Congress on Tuesday during a hearing on keeping kids safe online. As part of the hearing, both companies, as well as YouTube, agreed to share internal research with Congress about their platforms' impact on kids.
In the wake of whistleblower Frances Haugen's Facebook Papers leaks, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked policy executives from Snap, TikTok and YouTube whether they have conducted internal research on their platforms' impact on kids' mental health, similar to the research Facebook conducted.
Jen Stout, Snap's head of global policy, said the company has conducted research, which has found "95% of users say that Snapchat makes them happy." She committed to sharing that research with the committee. Michael Beckerman, TikTok's head of public policy, also said the company works with external researchers to study the platform and nodded when asked whether he'd commit to sharing that research. And Leslie Miller, YouTube's vice president of government affairs, said the company has shared research and will continue to do so.
"We'll look forward to receiving it within days or weeks, not months," Blumenthal said.
The problem, of course, is that Congress will have to take these companies' word on the fact that the research they're sharing is complete. Facebook has repeatedly shared stats on its impact on kids — but it wasn't until after the Wall Street Journal got its hands on Haugen's documents that it became clear there were other stats they weren't sharing.
As long as companies are determining what data to release and how, the picture will always be incomplete.