Congress has done its share of chest-thumping over the years about bringing accountability to Big Tech, but haven’t seen much in the way of real progress.
Most of the interaction is between elected officials asking questions beyond their depth and tech execs stonewalling or responding with meaningless platitudes.
But once in a while, something is said that actually matters. This time around there were a couple of takeaways that had people talking.
One was Senator Hawley blasting Zuckerberg for the harms suffered by children that ended with Zuckerberg offering an apology to the parents in the room.
In a heated exchange during a U.S. Senate hearing, Hawley, a Missouri Republican, asked Zuckerberg if he had taken any action to fire employees, provide compensation to victims or apologize to the families of people who were harmed by posts on social media sites.
Zuckerberg then stood up, turned to an audience holding up pictures of their loved ones, and apologized.
“I am sorry for everything that you have gone through,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things your family has suffered. And this is why we invested so much and will continue doing industry leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things your families have had to suffer.”
Hawley then asked Zuckerberg, who was trying to explain steps Meta has taken to offer more protection for children and to hand more power to parents, whether he plans to set up a victim compensation fund for people harmed by his sites.
“Your job is to be responsible for what your company has done,” Hawley said. “You’ve made billions of dollars on the people sitting behind you here. You’ve done nothing to help them. You’ve done nothing to compensate them. You’ve done nothing to put it right. You could do so here today and you should.” — Kanas City Star
Another was the moment where Zuckerberg was left gobsmacked by a question about his own company’s policies around exploitive and sexualized content involving children.
.@sentedcruz grills Mark Zuckerberg on his products’ complicity in child sexual exploitation.
“These results may contain images of child sexual abuse. And then you gave users two choices. Get resources or see results anyway. Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?” pic.twitter.com/xSb3hEeU53
— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) January 31, 2024
Zuckerberg thought he was getting a question he was ready for — one about redirecting people who searched creepy content to resources.
As Cruz asked, ‘what the hell were you thinking?’
That was NOT the question Senator Cruz came with. He was asking about that *other* option offered by both of Meta’s social media platforms, the one that offered the choice to ‘see results anyway’.
Zuckerberg was asked a follow-up question that should have been a layup. He had no idea what the answer was. Nor did he seem all that concerned about this particular knowledge gap.