During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing weighing child safety solutions on social media, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stopped to apologize to families of children who committed suicide or experienced mental health issues after using Facebook and Instagram.
“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” Zuckerberg told families. “No one should go through the things that your families have suffered, and this is why we invest so much, and we are going to continue doing industry-wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.”
This was seemingly the first time that Zuckerberg had personally apologized to families. It happened after Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) asked Zuckerberg if he had ever apologized and suggested that the Meta CEO personally set up a compensation fund to help the families get counseling.
“Internally you know your product is a disaster for teenagers,” Hawley said, inciting applause from the audience.
Zuckerberg did not agree to set up any compensation fund, but he turned to address families in the crowded audience, which committee chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described as the “largest” he’d ever seen at a Senate hearing. Some families in the audience held up photos of children harmed after using social media.
Meta did not immediately respond to Ars’ request to comment.
Zuckerberg was joined at the hearing by CEOs of TikTok, Snap, Discord, and X (formerly Twitter). Each was asked if they supported an array of online child-safety bills that have been introduced to combat harms after years of what Senators described in the hearing as insufficient action by social media companies to effectively reduce harms.
Among these bills is the Strengthening Transparency and Obligations to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act (STOP CSAM). When that bill was introduced, it originally promised to make platforms liable for “the intentional, knowing, or reckless hosting or storing of child pornography or making child pornography available to any person.” Since then, Durbin has amended the bill to omit the word “reckless” to prevent platforms from interpreting the law as banning end-to-end encryption, Recorded Future News reported.
Durbin noted that X became the first social media company to publicly endorse the STOP CSAM Act when X CEO Linda Yaccarino agreed to support the bill during today’s hearing. Yaccarino also seemed to stand alone supporting the Stopping Harmful Image Exploitation and Limiting Distribution (SHIELD) Act, which imposes criminal liability for sharing non-consensual intimate imagery and nude images of minors.