Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, directly addressed relatives of victims of online child abuse in the Senate gallery on Wednesday. Speaking to the families, who were holding photos of their deceased loved ones, Zuckerberg apologized for their suffering and stated that no one should have to endure what they have gone through. He reassured them that Meta is working to address the issue to prevent similar experiences in the future.
Prior to this moment, Zuckerberg had a tense exchange with Senator Josh Hawley, who pressed him on Meta’s handling of child exploitation and abuse on their platforms. The senator also questioned whether Meta would offer compensation to families of deceased children who suffered abuse on the platform.
During the hearing, which also featured testimony from other tech industry executives, senators scrutinized Zuckerberg on various topics related to online child safety. While Zuckerberg defended Meta’s actions and emphasized the company’s efforts to safeguard the platform, senators urged him to focus on more effectively mitigating negative experiences on their platforms.
After Zuckerberg addressed the gallery, some of the families remained silent, expressing skepticism towards his comments. One parent, Mary Rodee, who said her son died by suicide after experiencing sexual exploitation on Facebook Messenger, stated that the companies are not doing enough and emphasized the need for action rather than just words.
Overall, the hearing was marked by tense exchanges and scrutiny of the tech industry’s handling of child safety issues, highlighting the ongoing challenges and concerns in this area.
Cecilia Kang contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.