Face The Music
In a combative exchange during his Senate testimony about social media safety, Meta-formerly-Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was strongarmed into facing families and apologizing for the harm his platforms have wrought.
While being grilled by Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who has twice now introduced bills aimed at protecting children and teens from the harms of social media, Zuckerberg seemed at a loss for words as the politician righteously grandstanded.
"So you didn't take any action, you didn't fire anybody, you haven't compensated a single victim," the senator said. "Let me ask you this: [there are] families and victims here today, have you apologized to the victims? Would you like to do so now?"
After a moment of sputtering, the CEO stood up in the Senate hearing room and, dramatically turned around to the gallery behind him to apologize directly to teens and families harmed in various ways by his social networks, Facebook and Instagram.
"I’m sorry for everything you have all been through," Zuckerberg said. "No one should go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invest so much, and we are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer."
It was a startling and candid moment on the part of the Facebook CEO and founder, whose robotic demeanor is often memed, and who once literally took a CAPTCHA test on camera in a joking attempt to prove he was human.
Don't Impress Me Much
Still, not everyone was impressed — including Hawley, who after the apology repeatedly asked Zuckerberg if he planned to personally compensate the victims of social media harm, which would of course be a massive and circus-like undertaking should he actually choose to do so.
In an interview with CNN following the testimony, 22-year-old Arielle Geismar, who said she developed an eating disorder after seeing harmful content on social networks Zuckerberg owns, chided the CEO for downplaying the effect his apps can have on mental health.
"It feels disgusting to sit there and be lied to," the young woman said. "His words are less than a drop in the bucket... it is really, really nice for him to be able to say a few words and assuage everything, but it doesn’t bring back any human and it doesn’t take back the harm."
Notably, Futurism reported yesterday on a report from the Tech Transparency Project watchdog organization about Meta's seeming propensity to approve harmful ads, including a pro-anorexia one, that were generated using its house AI. When we reached out about that report, a spokesperson for the company declined to remark on the record.