Mark Zuckerberg Apologizes To Families Of Dead Children At Online Safety Hearing

"I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through," the Meta CEO said.

During a Senate committee hearing on children’s online safety Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologized to parents who say the use of his social media platforms played a role in their children’s death or abuse.

“I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through,” Zuckerberg said at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington. “It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”

He added that Meta Platforms Inc. will “continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer.”

Parents audibly hissed at Zuckerberg when he walked in. Many of them filled the chamber, holding up signs of their deceased children. The crowd was the “largest I’ve seen in this room,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said during the hearing.

Zuckerberg, whose social media empire includes Instagram and Facebook, was one of multiple tech CEOs grilled at the hearing, titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.” The session was prompted by parents’ concerns that social media platforms played an integral role in their children’s harassment, sexual exploitation, deadly drug sale, suicide or other suffering.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses attendees of Wednesday's hearing.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses attendees of Wednesday's hearing.
via Associated Press

“You have a product that’s killing people,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said at the hearing, telling Zuckerberg that “I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands.”

Other CEOs in attendance included those of TikTok, Discord, X (formerly Twitter) and Snap. For the heads of the latter three, the committee had to issue subpoenas to secure their attendance.

There are various proposed bills in the Senate focused on children’s protection online. Among them is the Kids Online Safety Act, which Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said that he supported ahead of the hearing. The proposed legislation seeks to protect minors’ private information on online platforms, disable addictive features, and opt underage users out of algorithmic content recommendations.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told the CEOs at Wednesday’s hearing that the reason similar bills have never passed is “because of the power of your companies.”

Durbin was direct in his assessment of the need for such legislation. “Your platforms really suck at policing themselves,” he told the CEOs.

Zuckerberg was generally agreeable at the hearing, but he did push back when Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said it “appears that [Meta’s platforms] ... are trying to be the premier sex trafficking site in this country.”

“Senator, that’s ridiculous,” he responded.

Zuckerberg also said that he supports age verification systems on his platforms, but believes it’s something that app stores should handle.

Call or text 988 or chat for mental health support. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

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