Zuckerberg insists Apple, Google responsible for child safety online, not Meta

  • Senate probes Big Tech CEOs on child safety, harshest criticism aimed at Meta’s Zuckerberg.
  • Tech CEOs defend against accusations, Zuckerberg apologises for online harm in Senate hearing.
  • Zuckerberg insists on App Store oversight for child safety, not Meta.

The Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the CEOs of numerous Big Tech companies on Wednesday, including TikTok, X, Discord, Snapchat and Meta, over their platforms’ commitment to teen and child safety online. They saved their most severe criticism for Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta.

Senate investigates Big Tech’s role in child safety: Zuckerberg apologised

On Wednesday, the CEOs of the largest social media firms testified to defend their businesses against growing accusations that they haven’t done enough to safeguard children and teenagers online.

The hearing, “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis” delved far deeper than its title. Lawmakers examined a variety of issues about social media sites’ inability to shield younger users from offensive information.

In the nearly four-hour hearing, Senator Lindsey Graham asserted that Zuckerberg bears responsibility for “blood on his hands” concerning teen suicides linked to Instagram use. Additionally, Senator John Kennedy conveyed to Zuckerberg that he is “exploring the outskirts of unsettling” in relation to Meta’s gathering of users’ personal data for algorithm development.

In a dramatic moment at the hearing, Zuckerberg took the stand and apologised to the families of victims of online child abuse, including those of teenagers who had committed suicide.

He said, “I’m sorry for everything you have all been through. 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. ”

Senator Josh Hawley later grilled Zuckerberg about whether Meta had compensated the families of teenagers whose deaths were connected to social media usage. Researchers believe there is evidence for this problem, but more study is needed to establish a definitive relationship.

Also read: Meta to protect teens from unwanted messages on IG and FB

Zuckerberg urges App Store to handle child safety policies, not Meta

CEO of Meta Mark Zuckerberg rejected the notion once more that companies such as his should oversee parental consent policies for children’s use of social media apps like Facebook and Instagram. Instead, he suggested that the issue should be handled by the companies that run the app stores, such as Apple and Google.

Zuckerberg stated, “My understanding is Apple and Google, or at least Apple, already require parental consent when a child does a payment with an app. So, it should be pretty trivial to pass a law that requires them to make it so that parents have control anytime a child downloads an app.”

Meta had already presented a suggestion in November of last year, suggesting that Apple and Google should take further steps to ensure the protection of children and teenagers, such as demanding parental consent before users between the ages of 13 and 15 download particular apps.

Meta aims to maintain fair competition with its rivals, even though its social networking services boast a massive user base of 3.14 billion people daily, as revealed in the company’s Q3 2023 earnings report announced in October. This figure surpasses Snapchat’s 406 million daily active users and X’s reported 500 million+ monthly active users from the same quarter.

Also read: Meta Platforms passes $1 trillion in market cap

Social platforms’ safety issues, from fentanyl to AI-generated content

Expect lawmakers to question the five tech CEOs about issues related to online safety, such as fentanyl sellers on Snapchat, the rise in extreme white supremacist content on X, and the frequency of self-harm and suicide content on TikTok. Additionally, considering the timing of X’s embarrassing inability to stop the recent explosion of explicit AI-generated Taylor Swift imagery and the company’s response, expect some Taylor Swift questions in the future.


Sylvia Shen

Sylvia Shen, a news reporter at BTW media dedicated in Fintech and Blockchain. She graduated from University of California, Davis. Send tips to s.shen@btw.media.

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