'You Have Blood on Your Hands,' Senator Tells Zuckerberg

Meta CEO apologizes to parents at Senate committee hearing on child safety
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 31, 2024 12:39 PM CST
'You Have Blood on Your Hands,' Senator Tells Zuckerberg
With people holding photos of their loved ones in the audience, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, to discuss child safety.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The CEOs of five social media companies—Meta, X, Discord, TikTok, and Snap—testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on efforts to protect children Wednesday, and they did not have a friendly audience. Rolling Stone reports parents holding photos of children who died by suicide "audibly hissed" at Mark Zuckerberg as he entered the chamber. "You have blood on your hands," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told the Meta CEO, drawing cheers. "You have a product that's killing people."

  • Zuckerberg disregarded request for more safety staff. Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal shared emails between Zuckerberg and a Meta exec, NBC News reports. Global Affairs Director Nick Clegg told the CEO the company was "not on track to succeed for our core well-being topics," including bullying and "SSI"—suicidal self-injury. Blumenthal said Zuckerberg rejected Clegg's request for dozens of engineers to help deal with the problem. The senator said the move would have "cost Meta about $50 million in a quarter when it earned $9.2 billion."

  • Zuckerberg apologizes to parents. Zuckerberg apologized to parents holding up photos of their deceased children after an exchange with GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, the AP reports. "There's families of victims here," Hawley said after Zuckerberg admitted that he hadn't personally compensated victims of online exploitation or their families. "Would you like to apologize to them?" Zuckerberg said, "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."
  • "What the hell were you thinking?" Republican Sen. Ted Cruz grilled Zuckerberg about a warning on Instagram that tells users search results may contain images of child sexual abuse—but still gives them the option of seeing the results. "Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?" Cruz said. Zuckerberg said the option was there "because we might be wrong," the Hill reports.
  • Comparisons to Boeing. CNN reports that some senators compared social media companies to Boeing, noting that federal regulators grounded 737 Max 9s after a door plug flew off one of the planes, without killing or injuring anybody. "So why aren't we taking the same decisive action when we know these kids are dying?" asked Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. In an exchange with Discord CEO Jason Citron, she said the debate over online safety has been going on for 28 years with little to show for it. "There's been so much talk at these hearings and popcorn throwing and the like, and I just want to get this stuff done," she said, per the Washington Post. "I'm so tired of this."

  • X CEO says platform isn't for kids. X CEO Linda Yaccarino told the hearing that only 1% of the platform's American users are in the 13 to 17 age group. "X is not the platform of choice for children and teens," she said. A Pew Research Center survey last fall, however, found that 20% of teens in that age group said they used the platform, the Post reports. Yaccarino also sought to draw a distinction between X and Twitter, calling X "a 14-month-old company."
  • Cotton targets TikTok CEO's background. NBC reports that Republican Sen. Tom Cotton repeatedly asked TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew if he was Chinese. "Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party?" Cotton asked. Chew said, "Senator, I'm Singaporean."
  • Snap supports Kids Online Safety Act. The AP reports that Snapchat had "broken ranks" ahead of the hearing and expressed support for the Kids Online Safety Act, which creates liability for platforms that recommend harmful content to minors. During Wednesday's hearing, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel asked other social media companies to support the bill.
(More social media stories.)

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