US Senator Accuses Mark Zuckerberg: ‘Facebook Kills People’
At a hearing titled ‘Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis’ held by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, criticism poured out against the CEOs of social media (SNS) platforms. The hearing continued with accusations that the platforms are neglecting the sexual exploitation of minors and opinions were raised that Congress should promptly pass legislation to protect minors.
Mark Zuckerberg of Meta, which operates Facebook and Instagram, Evan Spiegel of Snapchat, Zhu Shouzhu of TikTok, Linda Yakarino of X (formerly Twitter), and Jason Citron of Discord attended the hearing on the 31st (local time) as witnesses.
In the audience, families of victims of social media harm held up photos of their children. They criticized the CEOs, applauded the lawmakers’ questions, and broke down in tears over the loss of their loved ones.
At the start of the hearing, screens showed videos of children being bullied on social media and told the story of a victim who took her own life after being extorted by her rapist.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) opened the hearing by saying to the CEOs, “You have blood on your hands. You are making products that kill people.”
He pointed out that there are frequent cases of minors losing their lives due to exposure to harmful content on these social media platforms and becoming addicted. He continued, “Social media companies have created products with positive aspects, but they also have a dark side that is too dark to bear.”
Republican Senator Josh Hawley (Missouri) asked Zuckerberg to stand up and asked him, “Do you have any intention of apologizing to the victims harmed by your product?” He then demanded Zuckerberg, “Your product is killing people,” and “You should compensate the families of the victims.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz (Texas) criticized Instagram for failing to do its part to protect children from explicit content.
Senator John Kennedy of the same party questioned whether Meta has become a “killing field” that only lets users see one side of an issue and hides the truth.
Senator Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee) of the same party presented an internal document from Meta estimating the lifetime value of a teenage user at $270, saying, “How can you think like that? It’s truly astonishing.” She then fired back, “Children are not your priority,” and “Children are just your product.”
Senator Graham highlighted the case of the son of a South Carolina state representative who became a victim of sexual exploitation by meeting a scammer on Instagram and took his own life, asking Zuckerberg if he had anything to say.
In response, Zuckerberg bowed his head to the families of the victims, saying, “It’s awful,” and “I’m sorry for everything you’ve all been through.” He continued, “No one should have to go through what your families have been through, and that’s why we’re investing a lot,” and “We will continue to work to prevent the things your families had to go through from happening.”
He also suggested that it would be “simple” for Congress to enact legislation, saying that “Apple and Google are responsible for verifying the age of their users to make sure they are not minors.”
Snap CEO Spiegel also apologized to families, saying he was “so sorry we couldn’t prevent these tragedies,” in response to Democratic Rep. Lafonza Butler (Calif.), who cited a case where a minor died after buying drugs on Snapchat.
TikTok CEO Zhu Shouzhu said he would invest $2 billion worldwide in child safety and protection this year, and X’s Yakarino CEO said she supports the ‘Stop Child Sexual Abuse Material Act’ (STOP CSAM Act), which is currently being promoted legislatively.
This legislation allows victims to sue social media companies and makes it easier to request the removal of child sexual abuse-related materials.