Social Media CEOs Testify About How Platforms Potentially Harm Children

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By: ScreenGawk Staff | Published: Feb 08, 2024

CEOs from the world’s largest social media apps came under fire during a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee in January.

Mark Zuckerberg photographed as he testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building

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The executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, were roasted for the part their social networks play in the declining mental health of younger children who are exposed to abuse and exploitation online.

Senate Comes Down Hard on Social Media Executives

At the end of January, several executives of social media networks, including Meta, TikTok, and X, attended a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee (via Fox News).

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Social media executives are sworn in before they testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee

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The gathering was centered on the mental health risks that arise for younger generations on social media and whether or not the companies are doing all they can to protect children from online abuse and exploitation.

Social Media CEOS Blasted by Senate

The list of attendees included Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, TikTok CEO Shou Chew, Linda Yaccarino, the CEO of X, and Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, among others (via The Hill).

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Photograph of several social media execs, including Jason Citron, CEO of Discord, Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap, Shou Zi Chew, CEO of TikTok

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Many of the social media executives were blasted throughout the four-hour meeting as Senate officials, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, pointed out numerous problems with the apps.

Lobbying Efforts by Social Media Giants

The main reasoning behind the meeting was to help the Senate Judiciary Committee gain support to implement new federal legislation that aims to protect children online.

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According to Senate officials, social media platforms use lobbying tactics to ensure they keep complete control of the content their respective apps can publish.

Sen. Graham Calls out Zuckerberg

During a portion of the meeting, Sen. Graham directed his attention toward Mark Zuckerberg.

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U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin pictured alongside Sen. Lindsey Graham as they speak to members of the press during a news briefing

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“Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us, I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands,” he said.

A Product That Kills People

As Graham called out Zuckerberg, the audience erupted in cheers, with many holding up pictures of deceased children who unfortunately succumbed to the dark side of social media.

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Mark Zuckerberg pictured as he speaks directly to victims and their family members during a Senate Judiciary Committee

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“You have a product that’s killing people,” added Graham (via ABC News).

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Time for a Change

Sen. Graham suggested to those in the meeting that it was time to implement a huge change to reduce the power held by the social media giants.

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“It is now time to repeal section 230,” Graham said, alluding to the federal law that gives publishers and social media apps permission to moderate the content on their sites.

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Zuckerberg Called Out to Apologize

Later in the meeting, Zuckerberg was asked to apologize to the families affected by his company’s shortcomings by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri.

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Mark Zuckerburg turns to families in a meeting an issues an apology

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“They’re here. You’re on national television … Would you like to apologize for what you’ve done to these good people?” Hawley said (via ABC News).

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No Family Should Experience Such Pain

Zuckerberg then turned to the families in the crowd and apologized for the pain social media has brought them.

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A young child covers his ears as his mother and father argue in the background

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“It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered,” he told them. “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 things your families have had to suffer.”

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Social Media Is Not Safe

While many assume social media is safe to use, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, it’s the complete opposite.

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A young child pictured as she holds a large tablet

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“We don’t have enough evidence to say [social media is] safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” he said.

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Predators Use Social Media to Target Kids

According to Chairman Dick Durbin, social media apps have given predators “powerful new tools,” which has drastically increased child exploitation online.

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A man with his hood up uses his smartphone to commit crimes online

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“Their [the digital platforms’] design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, and their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk,” he said (via ABC News).

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Growing Problem Across the States

According to figures from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, reports of sexual exploitation of children online have increased dramatically over the past decade, with over 100,000 new cases each day.

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A man stands over a small child who's clearly in a state of worry

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Senators hope that by bringing attention to these problems, it will allow them to implement new federal regulations to ensure children are better protected online.

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