Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to parents of children who experienced harassment on his social media platforms. Together with other heads of social media giants, the head of Meta testified in the US Senate.
On Wednesday, the US Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing of the heads of the largest social media management companies. They showed up: Mark Zuckerberg, head of Meta, which includes, among others, Facebook and Instagram, Linda Yaccarino, executive director of Platform X, Shou Zi Chew, executive director of TikTok, Evan Spiegel, executive director of Snap Inc., owner of, among others, Snapchat and Jason Citron, head of Discord. The hearing, which lasted almost four hours, was related to combating violence against children on the Internet, mainly sexual abuse. The senators wanted to know what steps the heads of the platforms are taking to protect minors.
Dozens of parents appeared in the audience seats, holding photos of their children who had been harmed on social media and, in some cases, even lost their lives.
An apology from Zuckerberg
At the beginning of the hearing, a recording was shown of children and their parents talking about the harassment they experienced on social media. Senators described cases of young people who took their own lives. “Even though I know you don’t want it to be this way, you have blood on your hands,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told Zuckerberg. – You have a product that kills people – he added.
Republican Senator Josh Hawley asked the Meta CEO if he knew that “37 percent of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 have been exposed involuntarily to viewing nudity on Instagram.” – Who (in connection with this – editor) did you dismiss from work? – he asked. To Zuckerbeg’s statement that “it’s inappropriate to talk about this,” Howley replied: “Inappropriate?” Do you know who is sitting behind you? Families from all over the country. Their children have either been seriously harmed or are dead. Do you think it’s inappropriate to talk about your actions? You didn’t fire a single person, and did you somehow compensate the victims? – asked the senator. – Would you like to apologize to the victims during the television broadcast for the harm caused to them by your company’s products? Would you like to apologize for what you did to these good people? – he said to the businessman.
Zuckerberg did apologize, speaking directly to the loved ones of children harassed on his platforms. – I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through. No one should experience such suffering as your families. That’s why we invest so much in our sector and will continue to do so, so that no one else goes through what your families experienced, he said.
When questioned by Democrat Laphonza Butler, the CEO of Snapchat also decided to apologize. “I’m sorry we weren’t able to prevent these tragedies,” Spiegel said, referring to cases in which children died after purchasing drugs through his platform.
The new law aims to stop child abuse
During the hearing, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin pointed out that the number of children who have experienced sexual abuse on the Internet has significantly increased. Minors are encouraged to send photos or recordings containing nudity to strangers, and then money is extorted from them. “This disturbing increase in child sexual abuse is driven by one thing: changes in technology,” he stressed.
Congress is working on introducing legislation that would make it possible to hold companies accountable for the materials that appear on their platforms. The day before the hearing, Durbin said some companies had made changes to protect children from “online predators,” but they were still insufficient. – It is obvious that we need (national – ed.) regulations because the technology industry itself has failed to protect our children. They protect their profits, but they do not protect our children, he said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday in the Senate, the head of TikTok announced that his platform would allocate over $2 billion for security solutions, but did not say how this amount relates to the company’s overall revenues. Director X, in turn, admitted that her company supports the proposed law that would allow victims to sue social media platforms for experiencing sexual abuse.
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/TASOS KATOPODIS