Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued an apology to families who claimed their children had suffered harm due to social media during a passionate US Senate hearing.
The hearing, which also included executives from TikTok, Snap, X, and Discord, lasted nearly four hours, with senators from both parties questioning the tech leaders about child protection online.
Families, who shared stories of their children’s self-harm or suicide linked to social media content, were present during the hearing.
The atmosphere was tense, marked by applause when tough questions were asked and hisses when CEOs entered.
The primary focus was on protecting children from online sexual exploitation, but the senators covered a range of issues.
TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew denied allegations of sharing US users’ data with the Chinese government.
Zuckerberg faced intense scrutiny, especially from Senator Ted Cruz, who questioned an Instagram prompt warning users about potential exposure to child sexual abuse material.
Responding to Senator Josh Hawley, Zuckerberg apologized to the families, stating, “I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through; it’s terrible.
No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”
The heart of the hearing was the tech companies’ stance on legislation in Congress holding them accountable for content on their platforms
Discord’s Jason Citron faced tough questioning from Senator Lindsey Graham, who expressed frustration with the lack of progress in addressing online safety issues.
Social media industry analyst Matt Navarra noted the hearing’s resemblance to previous showdowns, characterized by political grandstanding.
Despite the agreement on the need for bipartisan legislation, the path forward remains uncertain.
The executives disclosed their content moderation workforce numbers, with Meta and TikTok employing 40,000 moderators each, Snap having 2,300, X employing 2,000, and Discord having “hundreds.”
Parents rallied outside after the hearing, urging lawmakers to pass legislation, citing the urgency of holding firms accountable for online safety.
Joann Bogard, whose son died in 2019 after participating in a TikTok trend, emphasized the need for legislative action, urging the passage of the Kids Online Safety Act.
Arturo Béjar, a former Meta staff member, criticized Meta for not adding a button for teens to report unwanted advances, questioning their commitment to teen safety.
During the hearing, Meta claimed to have implemented “over 30 tools” to create a safe online environment for teens.
in Congress, aiming to hold them accountable for content on their platforms.
Discord’s Jason Citron faced a tense exchange with Senator Lindsey Graham, highlighting the industry’s resistance to proposed regulations.
Social media analyst Matt Navarra noted the familiar pattern of such hearings, characterized by political grandstanding.
Despite bipartisan support for regulating platforms, the path forward remains uncertain.
The CEOs disclosed the number of content moderators on their platforms, with Meta and TikTok leading in numbers.
After the hearing, parents staged a rally urging lawmakers to swiftly pass the Kids Online Safety Act, emphasizing the urgent need for accountability measures.
Arturo Béjar, a former Meta staff member, criticized the company’s approach to teen safety and emphasized the absence of a mechanism for reporting unwanted advances.
Meta countered by stating they had implemented “over 30 tools” to ensure a safe environment for teens online.