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Zuckerberg Apologises To Families Of Children ‘Harmed’ By Social Media In US Senate Hearing

TikTok CEO Chew admitted that his children do not have TikTok accounts

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Meta, 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.

Legislation is currently going through Congress which aims to hold social media companies to account for material posted on their platforms.

Wednesday’s hearing 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 messaging platform 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, hissing when the CEOs entered and 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 there under oath.

TikTok – which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance – CEO Mr Chew was asked whether his company shared US users’ data with the Chinese government, which he denied.

He added that as a father of three young children he knew the issues under discussion were “horrific and the nightmare of every parent”.

He admitted his own children did not use TikTok because of the rules in Singapore which bar under-13s from creating accounts.

But it was Mr Zuckerberg, chief executive of Meta, 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 could be helpful”. He also promised to “personally look into it”.

During another exchange with Republican Senator Josh Hawley, Mr Zuckerberg was invited to apologise to the families sitting behind him.

He stood up, turned to the audience and said: “I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through, it’s terrible.

“No-one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”


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