“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” Zuckerberg said at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”
Speaking at a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to families negatively affected by his companies products after a grilling by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered an apology to parents at an online child safety hearing on Wednesday after being shamed into it by Sen. Josh Hawley, acknowledging the suffering caused by issues on the company’s platforms, particularly Instagram.
Sen. Hawley first lambasted Zuckerberg for taking little to no action to protect children on Facebook and Instagram, and then grilled him on why the billionaire and his company haven’t offered compensation to victims and their families.
Sen. Hawley then changed tactics. He said, “There are families of victims here today. Have you apologized to victims? Would you to do so now? They’re here, you are on national televison. Would you like now to apologize to victims who have been harmed by your products? Show him the pictures. Would you like to apologize to these good people?”
“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” Zuckerberg said at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” Zuckerberg added: “It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”
The parents Zuckerberg addressed have claimed that social media, particularly Instagram, contributed to their children’s suicide or exploitation. Many wore blue ribbons reading “STOP Online Harms! Pass KOSA!,” a reference to proposed legislation aimed at enhancing protections for kids online.
Zuckerberg apologizes to social media ‘victims’ at hearing after pressure from Hawley
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) forced Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to face the relatives of minors who died by suicide after facing bullying or sexual exploitation on social media, creating a dramatic moment at a high-profile hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Zuckerberg was under heavy questioning by Hawley during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on social media and the effects it has on teenagers. The CEO faced questions about the company’s research on teenagers, as well as its efforts to ensure that young users are safe on the platform. During this questioning, the Missouri senator asked Zuckerberg to turn around, face the group of parents whose children died by suicide after engaging with content on Facebook and Instagram, and apologize. “Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed by your products?” Hawley asked.
Zuckerberg obliged Hawley’s request. He stood up and spoke directly to the people in attendance.
“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” he said. “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered, and this is why we invest so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things your families have had to suffer.”
Several of the parents lifted pictures of the loved ones they had lost to suicide as Zuckerberg spoke.
Hawley tried to get Zuckerberg to agree to set up a compensation fund from his personal wealth for those who were hurt by his app. Zuckerberg declined to do so.
Zuckerberg was the focus of questions at Wednesday’s hearing early on. He appeared alongside the CEOs of Discord, X, Snap, and TikTok.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) directed his opening remarks toward the Meta CEO, alleging that he had “blood on his hands.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also questioned him about emails from 2021 that made it look like he declined to increase Meta’s spending on teenage mental wellness protections, although Zuckerberg was not given a chance to respond. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) turned his ire toward the Facebook founder, demanding details about how many people were seeking child sexual abuse material on his platforms.
Accusations, tears and rants: 5 takeaways from today’s tech CEO hearing
A group of social media bigwigs was grilled by Congress on Wednesday about the risks their products pose to young people.
The chief executives of Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord and X, formerly known as Twitter, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier Wednesday. The hearing got emotional at times, with apologies from two CEOs, tough questions by senators and reactions from families in the room who have seen harm come to some of their children.
Here are our main takeaways.
Families and victims were a massive force in the hearing
The families of people harmed by social media proved to be an immense force in Wednesday’s hearing.
Through applause, laughter at CEO testimony, hisses and moments of silence, the parents who say their children suffered or died as a result of social media served as a key theme.
They drove tensions higher and in some cases appeared to fuel the attacks of lawmakers against the CEOs. Congress has held many tech CEO hearings. But more than any other factor, the presence of so many parents in the room transformed the hearing and injected an unprecedented sense of urgency.
Zuckerberg, Spiegel personally apologize to families
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stood to apologize to the families in the hearing room.
“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” he said. “No one should go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invest so much and we are going to continue doing industry wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.”
In response, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley called on Zuckerberg, as a billionaire, to “compensate” the families whose children have been affected by his platforms.
In response to prompting from California Democrat Sen. Laphonza Butler, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel also apologized to families whose children have died after they purchased drugs on Snapchat.
“I’m so sorry that we have not been able to prevent these tragedies,” Spiegel said, before detailing some of the efforts the company takes to protect young users.
‘The foothills of creepy’: Senators express outrage over tech practices
Sen. Marsha Blackburn confronted Zuckerberg on internal Meta documents suggesting that the company estimates the lifetime value of a teen user at $270.
“How could you possibly even have that thought? It is astounding to me,” Blackburn said, before recognizing a group of youth advocates in the audience and inviting them to stand.
When they did so, the advocates revealed that they were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, “I am worth more than $270.”
“Children are not your priority. Children are your product,” Blackburn told Zuckerberg in the tense exchange.
Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy said Meta platforms have become a “killing field of information” where users “see only one side of an issue.”
“You have convinced over 2 billion people to give up all of their personal information — every bit of it — in exchange for getting to see what their high school friends had for dinner Saturday night,” he said.
Asking if Facebook makes it clear to its users how their data is monetized by the platform, Kennedy said, “Does your user agreement still suck?”
This prompted some laughter in the room.
Zuckerberg said people get the basics of how social media works.
“You’re in the foothills of creepy. You track people who aren’t even Facebook users,” Kennedy said. “I just wonder if our technology is greater than our humanity in the interest of this funnel.”
Minnesota Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar appeared visibly upset as she recounted the stories of parents whose children were harmed by social media platforms, including young people who committed suicide after being threatened by predators online.
“I’m so tired of this,” Klobuchar said. “It’s been 28 years … since the start of the internet. We haven’t passed any of these bills, because everyone’s ‘double talk, double talk.’ It’s time to actually pass them.”
Lawmakers grill TikTok CEO on the platform’s connection to China
TikTok CEO Shou Chew was grilled several times on the company’s connection to China, via its parent company ByteDance, and the amount of access and influence the platform grants to the Chinese government.
In one instance, Chew told Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton that it was “a coincidence” that he was appointed CEO of the platform a day after the Chinese Communist Party’s China internet investment fund bought a 1% stake in ByteDance’s main Chinese subsidiary, getting a seat on the board of the subsidiary.
Sen. Hawley also questioned Chew, who is Singaporean, about the company’s connections to China and its communist party.
In another instance, under questioning from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz during a timed answering period, Chew described the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing as a “massive protest.”
While Chew’s characterization of the event is accurate, it omits the subsequent bloody crackdown against pro-democracy activists by the Chinese government that today is heavily censored on the Chinese internet.
In later testimony, Chew did refer to Tianamen Square as a massacre.
Chew has previously testified to Congress that TikTok allows content about Tiananmen Square on its platform. TikTok does not operate within China. But its parent company, ByteDance, distributes a substantially similar app known as Douyin in China.