“Mr. Zuckerberg, you have blood on your hands.” Big tech leaders questioned by the US Senate

Luc Williams

Contrary to appearances, this is not a script from a tearful Hollywood production, it really happened. On Wednesday, January 31, 2024, the leaders of the largest social media companies were questioned by the US Senate. This event is part of a broader policy implemented by the United States to protect children from online criminals. During the hearings, there were strong words and spectacular gestures, but also ruthless facts. David Shepardson and Makini Brice write about the details for Reuters.

Your products are killing people

In addition to Mark Zuckeberg (Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram), Linda Yaccarino (X, formerly Twitter), Evan Spiegel (SNAP), Shou Zi Chew (TikTok) and Jason Citron (Discord) also testified before the US Senate. Why were they called in for questioning? Evidence was found against them, which indicates that they may have had a hand in sexual crimes against children. Unusual evidence. Statistics.

During the hearing, they were cited by senator and chairman of the Democratic Judiciary Committee, Dick Durbin, but they themselves come from a report prepared by the institution monitoring the issue – the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The data presented by the organization shows that the number of sexual blackmails (sextortion) using nude photos and videos sent to criminals by children persuaded by them has recently increased dramatically.

According to Durbin, this growth coincides with the eruption of social media. “Mr. Zuckeberg and the other big tech representatives here, I know you don’t want this, but it’s the truth – you have blood on your hands,” said Republican senator Lindsey Graham during the hearings. “Your products are killing people,” she added.

He just invented the knife?

The scene described in the first paragraph of this text actually happened during this interrogation, but in reality it was very disappointing. Yes, Zuckerberg expressed regret, but at the same time he admitted that he was avoiding responsibility for crimes committed using his platform.

Was he really the only one who invented the knife and it wasn’t his fault that someone was slaughtered using his invention? Not necessarily. The hearing also presented evidence that was slightly less universal than statistics. Among them – a copy of an e-mail in which the founder of Facebook rejects the request of his company’s CEO to hire a team of 45-84 people who will be responsible for working on improving security.

Not everyone interviewed approached the topic of their responsibility as nonchalantly as Zuckerberg. Linda Yaccarino vehemently assured that X is a big supporter of the STOP CSAM Act – a bill created by Durbin’s team that seeks to hold big tech decision-makers accountable for content that constitutes sexual violence against children. Let us emphasize this word – draft bill. Because it has not yet come into force.

This plane needs to be grounded

During the hearing, the issue of a certain technological curiosity was also raised, which could be funny if it were not terrifying. Well, messages appeared on Instagram warning that a given photo may contain scenes of child sexual abuse. Everything would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that, despite the warning, anyone who wanted could see the material. “What the hell were you thinking, Mr. Zuckerberg?” – Republican Senator Ted Cruz asked the Facebook founder in reference to this issue.

Other company representatives sloppily cited various facts in their defense. Platform X, by Elon Musk’s decision, blocked the ability to search for the artist Taylor Swift after her fake nude photos began to spread there. Shou Zi Chew assured that TikTok will spend $2 billion to improve the security of its product. Zuckerberg, while shying away from the idea of ​​content blocking, expressed belief that redirecting users to information and educational resources could help.

“When a Boeing plane lost its door mid-flight a few days ago, no one questioned the need to ground it immediately and protect the fleet. So why don’t we ground social media when we know it is a deadly danger to children?” – asked Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar, summing up the hearing.


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