On Wednesday, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg came under fire from several senators at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing over Meta’s apps and their affect on mental health.
In a tense exchange, Republican Senator Josh Hawley questioned Zuckerberg on research into Meta’s social media apps and their effect on minors. At one point in the exchange, Zuckerberg got up, turned around and faced the audience, addressing them directly. Some held up pictures of their family members who they say were harmed by social media as Zuckerberg spoke.
Zuckerberg said he was sorry for what they were going through, and “no one should have to go through the things your families have gone through” and said that was why Meta had invested in child safety on its platform.
In the same exchange with Hawley, Zuckerberg said there is no clear scientific evidence showing that social media use is detrimental to the mental health of minors, saying “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.”
Hawley cited leaked internal Meta documents showing that workers at Instagram were aware that female teenage users had higher rates of anxiety and depression.
“That’s what it says and you’re here testifying to us in public that there’s no link. You’ve been doing this for years for years,” said Hawley. “Internally you know full well your product is a disaster for teenagers.”
Hawley repeatedly demanded to know if any Instagram employees were fired for over studies he said showed teens had been exposed to content containing nudity or unwanted sexual advances on Meta products, but Zuckerberg did not get much opportunity to respond.
Hawley then asked if Zuckerberg would personally pay for a compensation fund for teens who had been victims of sexual abuse online, to which Zuckerberg replied he didn’t think that was his job.