Senate Blasts Tech CEOs as Zuckerberg Says Sorry for Online Harm to Kids

(ReliableNews.org) – Major social media platforms have been a part of society since the early 2000s, but their popularity at the time was relatively low. According to Statista, more than 4.59 billion people around the world used social media platforms in 2022, with Facebook hitting the top of the list, followed by others like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. These users aren’t just adults either, but kids using the technology to socialize. However, there’s a dark side to social media, and one congressman urged Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to apologize to the families allegedly negatively affected by sites like his.

What Happened?

On January 31, ABC News reported that Zuckerberg, TikTok’s Shou Chew, Snap’s Evan Spiegel, Discord’s Jason Citron, and X’s Linda Yaccarino appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss their platforms and how they protect kids from harm online. According to the news outlet, the purpose behind the meeting was to gain support for pending legislation aimed at keeping children safe on social media. At one point, Republican Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) prompted Zuckerberg to apologize to parents and loved ones for “what [he’s] done” to them. There have allegedly been problems with child exploitation, drug use, and mental health issues stemming from social media platform use.

The Meta CEO then turned to the parents of those reportedly harmed, in part, by his platform. He said the suffering the families have endured is “terrible” and “no one should have to go through” that. Zuckerberg explained that was why his company “invest[s] so much,” leading the industry in safety efforts.

Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) all questioned the company heads about the “inherent danger” of social media use by kids. Graham said Zuckerberg had “blood on [his]hands,” Durbin said the companies were focusing on “profit over basic safety,” and Ossoff said their platforms were “dangerous places for children.”

Moving Forward

Congress currently has bills in the works to possibly address child safety issues, in part online. The Kids Online Safety Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation currently on the table. The bill is aimed at providing both kids and parents with safeguards, tools, and the transparency required to keep children safe online, both mentally and physically. Durbin’s Stop CSAM Act is also designed to keep kids out of harm’s way while online, which also has some bipartisan support. However, congressional members also want social media company leaders to do their part to safeguard minors on their platforms.

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