Madison mom takes on big tech companies 5 years after son’s death

Madison parent whose son passed, pushes for online regulation
Madison parent whose son passed, pushes for online regulation(Marcus Aarsvold)
Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 8:05 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A Madison mom spoke out against YouTube and Google during a big tech meeting, saying they need to make the internet safer for children.

Annie McGrath won’t rest until she’s done everything she can to make it harder for children to access dangerous content online.

The Madison woman’s son, Griffin “Bubba” McGrath, died in 2018 after participating in the “choking game.” The deathly “pass out game” is where kids film themselves using their own hands to restrict their breathing and make themselves lose consciousness.

When McGrath is not visiting her 13-year-old son’s grave, she spends time pushing for legal action against Alphabet - Google and YouTube’s parent company.

”We’re trying to save any other kids. If only to save one life,” McGrath said. ”It gives us a little purpose, and every time we hear of another kid dying, we just say ‘Do something!’ You know? We’re just trying to scream it everywhere we can.”

She spoke to Alphabet’s board at the annual stockholder’s meeting on Thursday, claiming the internet is killing kids and that online corporations don’t care enough to change.

”They want to market to kids,” McGrath said. “The more audacious and crazy and riskiest are the things that are getting viewed, and that’s their next market. So of course they don’t want to.”

Alphabet board members addressed online safety and mentioned McGrath’s son Griffin by name.

“We’re sorry to hear about your loss,” Alphabet Assistant Secretary Kathryn Hall said. ”As such, our board of directors believes that the assessment requested by this proposal would not be an effective use of company resources or result in better direction or performance and recommends a vote against this proposal.”

Hall claimed YouTube flags dangerous videos and that 5.6 million videos were removed during Q4 in 2022. She also said the majority of the dangerous videos were removed before they had 10 views.

”When content crosses the line and violates our community guidelines, we remove it as quickly as possible using a combination of machine learning and human reviewers,” Hall said.

McGrath said an apology is not enough to save other children who still find this content.

“It’s just fake and callous,” she said.

McGrath said five Wisconsin parents who lost their children in a similar way reached out to her after NBC15 News’ initial story with her aired in 2021.

She and other parents are working to pass local and national legislation including the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act bill.

Click here to download the NBC15 News app or our NBC15 First Alert weather app.