Meta Boss Mark Zuckerberg Apologises, During a heated hearing in the United States Senate, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to families who claim their children have been hurt by social media.
Meta Boss Mark Zuckerberg Apologises to Families in Fiery US Senate Hearing
Mr Zuckerberg, who oversees Instagram and Facebook, went to them and said, “No one should go through” what they had. He and the CEOs of TikTok, Snap, X, and Discord were questioned for nearly four hours by senators from both parties.
Lawmakers wanted to hear what steps they are taking to protect youngsters online. It was a rare opportunity for US lawmakers to interview technology executives.
Mr Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew willingly consented to appear, but the heads of Snap, X (previously Twitter), and Discord first refused and were served with government subpoenas.
Behind the five internet executives sat families who claimed their children had self-harmed or murdered themselves as a result of social media postings. They expressed their sentiments throughout the hearing, hissing when the CEOs appeared and clapping when lawmakers asked difficult questions.
While the meeting was primarily focused on protecting children from online sexual exploitation, senators took advantage of having five strong executives testify under oath. Mr Chew from TikTok was asked if his company provided US users’ data to the Chinese authorities, which he rejected.
He stated, “As a father of three young children myself, I know the issues that we’re discussing today are horrific and the nightmare of every parent” – and confessed that his children do not access TikTok due to Singaporean restrictions.
But it was Mr Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, who faced the greatest scrutiny as he testified before Congress for the eighth time.
At one point, Republican Senator Ted Cruz said, “Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?” when he showed the tech executive an Instagram prompt that informs users that they are going to see child sexual assault material but asks if they want to “see the results anyway”.
According to Mr. Zuckerberg, the “basic science behind that” is that “it’s often helpful too, rather than just blocking it, to help direct them towards something that could be helpful”. He also pledged to “personally look into it”.
During another discussion with Republican Senator Josh Hawley, Mr Zuckerberg was asked to apologize to the families seated behind him. He stood up, turned to the audience, and said, “I apologize for all you’ve all been through; it’s terrible. “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”
Called Under Subpoena
While Zuckerberg and Chew attended the hearing voluntarily after being requested, Linda Yaccarino of X (previously Twitter), Discord CEO Jason Citron, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel were all served with subpoenas, requiring them to appear legally.
The session focused on the firms’ opinions toward legislation presently being considered by Congress that would hold them accountable for content posted on their platforms.
This was summed up in a heated debate between Discord founder Jason Citron and Republican lawmaker Lindsey Graham. Senator Graham mentioned a variety of online safety laws now before Congress and asked Mr Citron if he supported them.
While he gave Mr Citron little time to answer, the Discord chief seemed to have reservations about the majority of them. Mr. Graham went on to say, “So here you are – if you’re waiting on these guys to solve the problem, we’re gonna die waiting”.
Matt Navarra, a social media industry analyst, told the BBC that the session was comparable to many other showdowns between US lawmakers and internet leaders, with “lots of US political grandstanding” and a perfect photo opportunity offered by Mr Zuckerberg’s apologies.
He went on to say that, despite senators agreeing on the need to push for bipartisan legislation to regulate platforms, the question of what happens next and what exactly will come out of this session remains unclear.
“We’ve seen these hearings time and time again and they have often, so far, led still to not generate any significant or substantial regulation,” he went on to say.
“We’re in 2024 and the US has virtually no regulation, as was pointed out during the hearings, with regards to the social media companies.”
The executives also revealed the number of personnel they hired to censor content on their sites. Meta and TikTok, who had the most users among the platforms featured, stated they had 40,000 moderators, while Snap said it had 2,300, X had 2,000, and Discord – which said it was smaller – had “hundreds” of moderators.
Discord, a chat network, has previously been questioned about how it detects and prevents child abuse on its platform.
The senators shared several personal anecdotes from families whose loved ones died as a result of social media use, such as online bullying, extortion, or drug purchases made through social media. Though the Senate rarely agrees on legislation, they were unified in their goal of passing laws to safeguard young people online.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis asked the tech executives to participate in the proposals presently before Congress. “If you got a problem with them, state your problem, let’s fix it,” he went on to say. “No is not an answer.”