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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, other tech giants failed to protect children on social media – US Senators

BY JOEL C. ESCOL, Managing Editor


In a high-stakes hearing before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a public apology for the challenges posed by social media platforms to the safety of children. The session, titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis,” saw tech executives facing intense scrutiny from lawmakers over their perceived failure to adequately address the dangers faced by children, including threats from sexual predators and the alarming rise in teen suicide rates.

The hearing included testimony from prominent figures such as Linda Yaccarino of X, Shou Zi Chew representing TikTok, Evan Spiegel from Snap, and Jason Citron of Discord. Lawmakers, driven by a wave of public outrage, focused their questioning on the executives, demanding accountability for the perceived negative impact of their platforms on young users.

Senator Lindsey Graham bluntly accused Zuckerberg of having “blood on [his] hands” and declared that the platform had a product that was “killing people.” The Meta CEO was compelled to stand and issue a public apology to the families of victims present in the committee room. Zuckerberg expressed regret, stating, “I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. No one should go through the things that your families have suffered.”

During the hearing, the executives faced a barrage of questions regarding the measures taken by their respective platforms to ensure the safety of young users. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, pledged to invest $20 billion in online safety initiatives, emphasizing the employment of 40,000 safety professionals dedicated to addressing these concerns.

TikTok’s Shou Zi Chew, acknowledging the severity of the issues discussed, committed to investing over $2 billion in trust and safety initiatives. He highlighted the employment of 40,000 safety professionals solely focused on addressing these critical matters. Ahead of the hearing, both Meta and X (formerly Twitter) introduced new measures to preemptively address concerns, including Meta’s decision to block direct messages sent to young teens by strangers.

During the hearing, Meta faced allegations of hypocrisy as senators pointed to internal documents revealing that Zuckerberg had resisted strengthening teams dedicated to tracking online dangers for teenagers. Approximately 40 states are jointly suing Meta, citing failures in protecting children. Internal documents played a crucial role in highlighting the company’s reluctance to enhance safety measures for teens.

Lawmakers expressed frustration with the limited legal liability of web platforms under existing US law, emphasizing the need for more stringent regulations to ensure online safety. The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) was mentioned as a potential solution, aiming to protect children from algorithms that could trigger mental health issues. Another proposed measure involves age verification for social media accounts, with a complete ban on children under the age of 13.

In conclusion, the hearing underscored the growing discontent among lawmakers and the public regarding the perceived failure of tech giants to prioritize the safety of young users. The call for regulatory intervention and the introduction of comprehensive laws to address these concerns signals a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over the responsibilities of Big Tech in safeguarding vulnerable users, particularly children, from online threats.

Joel Escol
Joel Escolhttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK_sKdGFs0ewIh9R-iAskDg
Joel Calamba Escol is a journalist in the Philippines for more than 20 years. Currently, he is the Managing Editor of Mindanao Daily News, the biggest and most-widely read newspaper in Southern Philippines. He is also known as Noypi Vlogger in Youtube. You can follow him on the following social networking sites below.

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