Why dragging tech CEOs in front of Congress might mean something this time

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, speaks directly to victims and their family members during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. This time, the hearing of tech execs might actually bring some change.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images
Published February 1, 2024
  • Meta, TikTok, X, Snap, and Discord CEOs were grilled by the Senate on child exploitation and harm.
  • Some of the CEOs, like Mark Zuckerberg, have sat in that same seat several times — but little has changed.
  • This time, there’s real legislation in the works, and bipartisan momentum to make actual changes.

Sen. Josh Hawley has taken some extreme stances, outside even mainstream conservative norms and is a controversial figure in the Senate. But his consistent criticism of some of the real issues happening in Big Tech has sometimes reminded me of a classic Clickhole headline: “Heartbreaking: The Worst Person You Know Just Made a Great Point.”

On Wednesday, during a Senate hearing on child exploitation on social media, Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, pulled off one of those moments: He badgered Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg into standing up, turning to face the room full of parents holding up photos of their teenagers who had died from suicide or were otherwise harmed after being exploited online — and forced him to apologize.

It was theatrics, to be sure, but it was genuinely a powerful moment.

Why this time could be different

I’ve watched a bunch of these kinds of congressional hearings, where tech CEOs swap the hoodie for a tie and sit before lawmakers who take an opportunity to make a big show of trying to flay the CEOs over whatever the hot scandal of the moment is: the Twitter Files, Russian election interference, alleged anti-conservative bias, etc.

Rarely does Congress land any real blows. Often, it’s a complete whiff, and lawmakers embarrass themselves with their lack of understanding of technology — like someone asking Sundar Pichai why an unflattering article about the senator appeared on his iPhone, to which the Google CEO replied, “Congressman, the iPhone is made by a different company.

The best example of this was by Zuckerberg himself, who in 2018 was being grilled over Facebook’s data-collection practices. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who was 84 then, asked how Facebook could be free to users. Zuckerberg blinked and said, “Senator, we run ads.”


SOURCE: www.businessinsider.com

RELATED: Mark Zuckerberg defends teenage creators’ right to public Instagram accounts

Published February 1, 2024

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Meta, commented in today’s Senate hearing on children’s online safety that teenagers should be able to be creators and share their content widely.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned Zuckerberg about Meta’s privacy controls for teenagers. On Instagram, for example, teens under 16 — or 18 in some countries — have their accounts automatically set to private when they join the platform. But teenagers can toggle these safety measures to make their accounts public at any time.

“Yes, we default teens into a private account so they can have a private and restricted experience,” Zuckerberg told the senator. “But some teens want to be creators and want to have content that they share more broadly, and I don’t think that’s something that should just blanketly be banned.”


SOURCE: www.techcrunch.com

RELATED: ‘I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through’: Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg apologises to parents of children harmed by social media

After apologising, Zuckerberg told the parents that he would continue working hard to ensure no one has to suffer like their families have

Published February 1, 2024

Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Meta, apologised to parents whose children were harmed by using social media. The Meta CEO was at a meeting that was held by the US Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing was attended by CEOs of major tech companies including Meta, TikTok, Snap, Discord, and X. It aimed to investigate the alarming rise in online child sexual exploitation and the harmful effects of social media use on the youth that uses these platforms. The CEOs faced intense scrutiny and questioning from senators. Parents of children who were harmed through social media were also in attendance, some holding signs sharing their children’s stories.

Zuckerberg apologised after Senator Josh Hawley asked him if he would like to apologise to the parents. He 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.”

At the meeting, there were also executives from Meta, TikTok, Discord, X, and Snap. They were asked questions by senators. Parents showed photos of their children and wore blue ribbons that said, “STOP Online Harms! Pass KOSA!”. KOSA stands for the Kids Online Safety Act. This act would require social media companies to take better care of children.

After apologising, Zuckerberg told the parents that he would continue working hard to ensure no one has to suffer like their families have.


SOURCE: www.businesstoday.com



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Cherry May Timbol – Independent Reporter
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