Jennifer Siebel Newsom Takes Aim at Tech Giants Over Social Media Impact on Youth

Jennifer Siebel Newsom, wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom, didn’t mince words as she criticized the tech industry during the Milken Institute Global Conference. Addressing concerns about the harmful effects of social media on young people, she took aim at Silicon Valley’s major players, accusing them of neglecting to address issues like social media addiction and mental health problems among children and teenagers.

In her speech, Siebel Newsom highlighted the industry’s resistance to California’s Age Appropriate Design Code, a law aimed at safeguarding children’s online privacy and safety. She lamented the influence of capitalist interests, suggesting that legislation may be necessary if tech companies fail to prioritize transparency and accountability in addressing these critical issues.

Her comments come amidst legislative efforts in Sacramento to enact stringent regulations on the tech industry. One such bill seeks to hold social media platforms accountable for negligently harming children, potentially exposing them to significant financial penalties. The bipartisan support for such legislation underscores the growing consensus that tech companies must be held accountable for their products’ impact on young users.

Siebel Newsom’s call for action extends beyond legislative measures. She emphasized the importance of tech companies recognizing their responsibility to protect children, describing them as the “most vulnerable” in society. Additionally, she urged leaders in artificial intelligence to address the systemic inequities perpetuated by existing systems, emphasizing the need for ethical and responsible innovation.

Drawing from her personal experiences as a mother, Siebel Newsom highlighted the devastating consequences of online bullying, recounting the difficult decision to withdraw her daughter from school due to harassment. She also referenced a multistate lawsuit against Meta, accusing the company of designing features that addict children and teens to their platforms to their detriment.

In her critique of tech industry leadership, Siebel Newsom singled out Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for blocking safety measures, questioning his commitment to creating a safer online environment. However, she also acknowledged the efforts of executives like Pinterest CEO Bill Ready, who have taken voluntary steps to enhance platform safety.

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As Siebel Newsom continues to advocate for greater accountability and responsibility in the tech industry, her remarks serve as a rallying cry for action to protect the well-being of children and teenagers in the digital age.

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