WASHINGTON – At yesterday’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube,” U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) demanded answers from company representatives on their views on competition policy and her legislation to set commonsense rules of the road for major digital platforms to ensure they cannot unfairly preference their own products and services.
Klobuchar asked Snap and TikTok “Do you support some of the competition reforms in the bill, and have you faced any challenges when it comes to competing with the largest digital platforms?” to which Snap responded “We compete every day with companies that collect more information on users and store that information to monetize, so any efforts that this body, and especially the legislation that you’ve undertaken to create an equal playing field so that it is indeed a competitive atmosphere for platforms like Snapchat, we would very much welcome,” and TikTok noted, “Yeah, likewise we appreciate your efforts and the work that you’ve done to promote and spur competition. That’s something that I think we all benefit from.”
Klobuchar also pushed for explanations of how the tech platforms profit off of young users and how they address misinformation.
“So one of the things that I've tried to do...is taking the veil off this idea that this is just [the] web, everyone has fun, that's what it is, and it's just a cool thing. Some of that’s true, but it's also a huge profit-making venture,” said Klobuchar.
Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you, thank you very much, thank you for -- a lot going on here today, thank you for taking me remotely for the second round. So one of the things that I've tried to do in all of these hearings that we’ve had, including in the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee that I chair, is taking the veil off this idea that this is just web, everyone has fun, that's what it is, and it's just a cool thing. Some of that’s true, but it's also a huge profit-making venture. And when you look at it that way, as the most successful and biggest companies the world has ever known in the big tech platforms, in terms of money, then you have to start looking at it, wait a minute: Why haven't we done anything about privacy law? Or why haven't we done anything on Senator Markey’s children’s law? Why haven't we put in place some rules about transparency on algorithms, or mostly, from my perspective, done anything about competition policy, which is a market approach to get alternatives? So I just start with this question, which I've asked many of the platforms, the larger platforms. Ms. Stout, Snap reported that its advertising revenue per user in North America for the second quarter of 2021 was $7.37, how much of Snap’s revenue came from users under the age of 18?
Ms. Stout: Senator, I don’t have that information for you, but I’d be happy to take that back, provide you a response.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, very good. I appreciate that. Yeah, I've been trying to get that from Facebook, of course. Just to give you a sense, Facebook's revenue per user from their own documents is $51 per user in the US per quarter, just to put it in some perspective.
Mr. Beckerman, TikTok is a privately held company, so we don't have public documents on your advertising revenue per user. What is your best estimate of advertising revenue per US user for the last quarter?
Mr. Beckerman: Senator, I don’t have those numbers, but I’d be happy to go back and check in with the team.
Sen. Klobuchar: Do you think you can provide us that?
Mr. Beckerman: Again, we’re not a public company, but I’ll go back and see what we can find for you.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, and again, I’m trying to figure out the percentage from users under the age of 18 for us to get some perspective on how much of the business and future growth of the business is in kids.
Ms. Miller, YouTube reported that its advertising revenue overall in the second quarter of 2021 was $7 billion, how much of YouTube’s revenue came from users under that age of 18?
Ms. Miller: Senator, I don’t know the answer to that and I’m not sure if we look at the data internally that way, so I would also be happy to follow up with you. But I would like to note that as a company, we’ve long-shared our revenue with our creators, so over the last three years alone, we have paid out more than $30 billion to our creators.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay. My work with the Antitrust Subcommittee takes me in related paths, and I recently introduced the bipartisan legislation the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which, with Senator Grassley and there's several people including Senator Blumenthal, who are cosponsors of that legislation. And it's focused on a gnarly problem, which is that you have platforms that are self-preferencing their own stuff at the top, they are taking, in some cases, data that they uniquely have on other products and then making knock-off products, and then underpricing the competitors.
Ms. Miller, Roku says YouTube has made unfair demands in negotiations for carrying the YouTube TV app on Roku, including demanding Roku give preference to YouTube over other content providers in its search results, which is exactly what this legislation gets to, and give YouTube access to non-public data from Roku’s users. Did YouTube make these demands for non-public data and preferencing in search results in negotiations with Roku?
Ms. Miller: Senator, I am not involved in the negotiations with Roku. I know we’ve been having discussions with them for several months and we’re trying to come to a resolution that’s good for users as well as both companies, but I’m not involved in the negotiations.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, I’ll put this on the record for others in the company, because also I’d like to know more generally if YouTube has ever demanded non-public data or preferencing in search results in negotiations with other providers. It just gives you a sense of a dominant platform, by far, in the area of search. Being able to use that power over people who are simply trying to be on that platform. So I think that gets really to the core of what we’re trying to do.
I also just had a follow-up on your YouTube banning all vaccine misinformation, which I commended you for at the time. How much content have you removed related to this policy change since you’ve banned all anti-vaccine misinformation, and have you seen a change in the viewership rate?
Ms. Miller: Senator, I feel bad, I think this is a question I would absolutely love to answer with details, but I know that we’ve removed so much video as it relates to COVID misinfo.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, well we’ll put it in writing and we’ll get the answer that way. Thank you. My last question, Ms. Stout, Mr. Beckerman, I’ve just mentioned this bill that Senator Grassley and I have introduced with ten other cosponsors aimed at ensuring that dominant digital platforms don’t use their market power to thwart competition. Do you support some of the competition reforms in the bill, and have you faced any challenges when it comes to competing with the largest digital platforms? That’ll be my last question.
Ms. Stout: Senator, we’re aware of the bill that you introduced with Senator Grassley, and as a non-dominant platform very much appreciate your legislation and the work that you’re doing in this space. And yes, as a smaller platform, it is an incredibly competitive arena for us. We compete every day with companies that collect more information on users and store that information to monetize, so any efforts that this body, and especially the legislation that you’ve undertaken to create an equal playing field so that it is indeed a competitive atmosphere for platforms like Snapchat, we would very much welcome.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, thanks. Mr. Beckerman?
Mr. Beckerman: Yeah, likewise we appreciate your efforts and the work that you’ve done to promote and spur competition. That’s something that I think we all benefit from. As it relates to specific challenges that we face, I’d be happy to meet with you and some of your team to discuss in detail some of those issues.
Sen. Klobuchar: Thank you very much. Thank you everybody.
Ms. Miller: Senator, I’ve found the answer, if you don’t mind.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay. Okay, that’s impressive.
Ms. Miller: On COVID misinfo, we’ve removed over a million videos since we started rolling out covid misinfo, and over 130,000 videos as it relates to COVID vaccine misinfo. So it’s an area we’ve put a lot of resources behind to make sure our platform isn’t promoting or allowing this type of content. Thank you.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, thank you. Thanks everybody. Thanks Senator Blumenthal and Blackburn.
# # #