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  • Vishal Narayan

Big tech CEOs face music in US Senate hearing on child sex abuse, Zuckerberg turns to families to apologise

Top executives of five big social media firms faced a severe grilling on Wednesday when they appeared for questioning before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on the issue of child exploitation content that their portals have been found to be hosting.

The meeting, scheduled to deliberate on an Act to banish Child Sexual Abuse Material, or CSAM, from internet, heard testimonies from Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, X CEO Linda Yaccarino, Snap Co-founder Evan Spiegal, Tik Tok CEO Shou Chew, and Discord CEO Jason Citron.

It was Zuckerberg who came under fire the most, with each Senator in turn grilling him over his alleged refusal to allocate funds to rein in CSAM, even as he was requested for it in several communications by Meta's executives.

At one point, Senator Ted Cruz R-Texas showed Zuckerberg an Instagram "disclaimer" that read "These results may contain images of child sexual abuse" with two options at the bottom, one of which said, "See results anyway."

"Mr Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?" Cruz asked the Meta boss.

Zuckerberg replied, "The basic science behind that is that when people are searching for something that's problematic, It’s often helpful to rather than blocking them to help direct them to something that can help them."

Not satisfied with the answer, Cruz asked Zuckerberg to come up with a reply in five days, to which the Meta chief replied, he would "follow up."

Earlier in his deposition, Zuckerberg listed efforts Meta has been putting in to stench streaming of child sexual abuse material on its platforms.

"We have around 40,000 people overall working on safety and security, and we have invested over $20 billion since 2016. This includes around $5 billion in the last year alone," he said.  

At one point during the hearing, Zuckerberg turned towards the parents and those others present in the room to apologise for any harm done to their wards due to Instagram or Facebook.

"I’m sorry for everything you have all been through… No one should go through the things that your families have suffered," he said.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino in her deposition said X suspended 12.4 million accounts for violating its child sex exploitation policies, up from 2.3 million accounts in 2022.

"While X is not the platform of choice for children and minors – users between 13-17 account for less than 1% of our U.S daily users – we have made it more difficult for bad actors to share or engage with CSE material on X, while simultaneously making it easier for our users to report CSE content," she said.



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