Social Media CEOs Testify About How Platforms Potentially Harm Children
CEOs from the world’s largest social media apps came under fire during a meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee in January.
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).
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).
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.
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.
“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.
“You have a product that’s killing people,” added Graham (via ABC News).
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.
“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.
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.
“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).
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
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.
“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).
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.
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.