Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to victims, parents, and family members of children who have suffered from abuse on social media during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. Zuckerberg stood up and turned around to offer his condolences to the survivors and their loved ones in the room, while adding that his company was working to prevent further harm from occurring.
“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” Zuckerberg said. “Nobody should have to go through what your families have suffered. And this is why we have invested so much and are going to continue industry leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things your families have had to suffer.”
The stunning moment came after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) asked Zuckerberg if he planned to apologize to the victims and their families. “Have you apologized to the victims? Would you like to do so now?” Hawley asked. “They’re here, you’re on national television.”
Zuckerberg’s apology occurred after the Senate summoned the CEOs of five social media platforms to discuss “Big Tech and the online child sexual exploitation crisis.” Along with Zuckerberg, those subpoenaed included Discord’s Jason Citron, TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, Snap’s Evan Spiegel, and X’s Linda Yaccarino.
Lawmakers have accused the platforms of creating digital environments rife with child exploitation while not doing nearly enough to prevent potential abuse. Meanwhile, the room was filled with child safety advocates, survivors, and families who held images of social media abuse victims. As the lawmakers grilled the CEOs, they could be heard cheering and jeering in the background.
“You have a product that’s killing people,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told Zuckerberg as the crowd applauded. “You have blood on your hands.”
The sexual exploitation and abuse of children on social media has become a crisis in recent years. The number of child sexual abuse materials found by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has increased 87 percent since 2019. As much as 20 percent of children in some countries were found to have been subjected to sexual exploitation online in 2022.
The issue also has bipartisan consensus. In a recent survey provided to The Daily Beast by the AI Policy Institute, 76 percent of voters would be more supportive of politicians and lawmakers who regulated children's social media use, with 81 percent agreeing that more should be done to restrict children’s social media access.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said in his opening statement at the hearing that the abusewas a “crisis in America.” He went on to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Big Tech companies that he said facilitated this abuse as well as their CEOs. “Their 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.”