Missouri’s U.S. Senator Josh Hawley leveled harsh criticism at the CEOS of top social media companies — and he was not alone. Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis,” featured Democrats and Republicans accusing Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, TikTok CEO Shou Chew, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel and Discord CEO Jason Citron of “having blood on their hands,” (Lindsey Graham, R-SC) and creating platforms that are “dangerous places for children” (Jon Ossoff, D-Ga.).
But Hawley demanded an apology:
“Would you like to do so now? Well, they’re here you’re on national television.” Hawley said. “Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed but you’re not showing the pictures? Would you like to apologize for what you’ve done to these good people?
Zuckerburg then stood and spoke to the audience of parents of exploited kids:
“I’m sorry for everything you have all gone through, no one should have to go through the things that your families have, have suffered. And this is why we invest so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer.”
Hawley also challenged the CEO of Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, on how his companies regard the research into the negative effects of social media on adolescent mental health.
“Senator, what I said is I think it’s important to look at the science. I know it’s people widely talked about this as if that is something that’s already been proven. And I think that the bulk of the scientific evidence does not support that,” Zuckerberg answered.
“Well, really, let me just remind you of some of the science from your own company,” Hawley retorted. “Instagram studied the effect of your platform on teenagers. Let me just read you some quotes from the Wall Street Journal’s report on this company researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of teenagers, most notably, teenage girls.”
Hawley, in the 10 minutes allotted for questions, turned his attention to TikTok. He said the app is “an espionage arm of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“Do you deny that repeatedly American’s data has been accessed by ByteDance employees in China,” Hawley asked.
“We build a project that either costs billions of dollars to stop that and we have made a lot of progress and…” said TikTok CEO Shou Chew,
“It hasn’t been stopped,” Hawley injected. “According to The Wall Street Journal report from just yesterday, even now, ByteDance workers without going through official channels have access to the private information of American citizens importing from the article private information of American citizens including their birthdate, their IP address, and more.”
Senators on the Judiciary Committee want to see a higher percentage of these companies’ revenue spent on safety measures for children. Texas Republican Ted Cruz displayed Meta emails indicating decisions to not spend more on hiring safety engineers, while Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse charged, “Your platforms really suck at policing themselves.”
LISTEN TO SENATOR HAWLEY’S QUESTIONING: 9:16