Mark Zuckerberg, who owns Meta, apologized to parents whose children had been harmed by or through social media during a recent Senate session.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) asked if Zuckerberg had apologized to the parents of the children who had been harmed, and challenged him to do so immediately. “They’re here, you’re on national television. Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed by your product? Show him the pictures.”
Families of the children displayed pictures of their lost loved ones, all of whom had died due to connections with social media. The Washington Post reported that the causes of death included suicide due to bullying, overdosing on drugs obtained online, and asphyxiation due to the dangerous "blackout challenge" trend.
“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” Zuckerberg said. “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered, and this is why we invested 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 that your families had to suffer.”
The meeting was entitled "Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis." The CEOs of Meta, Snap, TikTok, X, and Discord were questioned for approximately four hours by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee on their actions to protect children from exploitation on their platforms.
Several Senators mentioned several bills aimed at regulating social media to prevent harm to children, and demanded to know if the CEOs would back the bills, with some denouncing the intense lobbying the tech firms have been employing to slow them down. Ted Cruz, (R-TX) called on Zuckerberg to explain an Instagram warning that alerted users an image might show child sexual abuse, but still allowed them to see the image.
The CEOs highlighted a series of steps their companies take to prevent harm to children on their platforms, with a few voicing limited support for some of the legislation mentioned. None openly stated their support for any of the bills.
At the end of 2023, more than sixty parents sued Snap by claiming that the platform had helped their children purchase dangerous drugs. Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Snap, gave a similar apology during the hearing: “I'm so sorry that we have not been able to prevent these tragedies.”
The hearing included a number of heated exchanges between the members of the committee and the CEO’s, with Lindsey Grahm (R-SC) declaring: “If you wait on these guys to solve the problem, we're going to die waiting,”