Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose company has been accused of failing to take actions to protect children on its social networks, apologized to families of kids who have been the victims of online abuse and harm.
Zuckerberg, during a Senate hearing Wednesday, directly addressed parents in attendance who said their children suffered harassment and exploitation on social media. “I’m sorry for everything that you all have gone through,” Zuckerberg said after turning around to face the crowd gathered in the hearing room. “It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”
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Zuckerberg said that’s why Meta has invested “so much” in safety mechanisms and will continue to do so “to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have suffered.” According to the CEO, Meta is investing more than $20 billion in improving the safety and security infrastructure and personnel across its family of social-media apps.
Zuckerberg’s remarks came after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) challenged the CEO to apologize to the families affected by Meta’s social media apps. “You’re here, you’re on national television,” Hawley said. “Would you like to apologize for what you’ve done to these good people?”
Zuckerberg was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” Chief executives of other companies set to testify included TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, Discord’s Jason Citron, X’s Linda Yaccarnio and Snap’s Evan Spiegel.
An internal Meta presentation from 2021 found that children on Instagram and Facebook were frequent targets of sexual harassment, according to documents released as part of a lawsuit filed in December by the state of New Mexico that alleged Meta’s platforms recommend sexual content to underage users and promote underage accounts to adult predators. The report estimated that 100,000 kids per day received photos of adult genitalia or other sexually abusive content.
Last year, a Wall Street Journal exposé concluded that Instagram‘s recommendation algorithms enabled a “vast” network of pedophiles seeking illegal underage sexual content and activity. In a statement at the time, a Meta rep said the company is “continuously exploring ways to actively defend against this behavior, and we set up an internal task force to investigate these claims and immediately address them.”
During the Senate hearing, the CEOs were asked whether they support the Kids Online Safety Act, a proposed federal law that would require internet platforms used by minors to take “reasonable measures” to “prevent and mitigate certain harms that may arise” such as sexual exploitation and online bullying. Zuckerberg said Meta supported the “basic spirit” of KOSA but declined to pledge support for the bill (as did TikTok’s Chew and Discord’s Citron). Snap’s Spiegel and X’s Yaccarino said they support KOSA.
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