Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg apologises to families in fiery US Senate hearing

Business International

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to families who say their children had been harmed by social media, during a fiery hearing in the US Senate.

Mr Zuckerberg – who runs Instagram and Facebook – turned to them and said “no one should go through” what they had.

He and the bosses of TikTok, Snap, X and Discord were questioned for almost four hours by senators from both parties.

Lawmakers wanted to know what they are doing to protect children online.

It was a rare opportunity for the US senators to question tech bosses.

Mr Zuckerberg and TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew voluntarily agreed to testify – but the heads of Snap, X (formerly Twitter) and Discord initially refused and were sent government-issued subpoenas.

Behind the five tech bosses sat families who said their children had self-harmed or killed themselves as a result of social media content.

They made their feelings known throughout the hearing, hissing when the CEOs entered as well as applauding when lawmakers asked tough questions.

While the hearing mostly focused on the protection of children from online sexual exploitation, the questions varied widely as the senators took advantage of having five powerful executives sitting in front of them under oath.

TikTok’s Mr Chew was asked whether his company shared US users’ data with the Chinese government, which he denied.

He said “as a father of three young children myself I know the issues that we’re discussing today are horrific and the nightmare of every parent” – and admitted his own children do not use TikTok because of the rules where he lives in Singapore.

But it was Mr Zuckerberg, chief executive of Meta – which owns Facebook and Instagram – who came under the most scrutiny, as he testified before Congress for an eighth time.

At one point, Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked, “Mr Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?” when he showed the tech boss an Instagram prompt that warns users they may be about to see child sexual abuse material, but asks if they would like to “see the results anyway”.

Mr Zuckerberg said the “basic science behind that” is “it’s often helpful to, rather than just blocking it, to help direct them towards something that that could be helpful”. He also promised to “personally look into it”.

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