Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg did something unusual in Wednesday’s congressional hearing on child safety online. He stood up, turned around, and apologized to parents and families of children who had died of causes they say were related to social media.
“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” Zuckerberg said. “No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invested so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families had to suffer.”
The moment came after intense questioning by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).
Zuckerberg is one of five tech executives called to testify during the hearing, which was primarily organized to address issues like the prevalence of child sexual abuse material or CSAM. The hearing has also covered other safety issues related to teens and children on social media, such as cyberbullying, body-image issues, grooming, drugs and suicide.
The families who gathered were part of a group called Parents for Safe Online Spaces. As Zuckerberg spoke, they held up framed photos of their children who have died. They say their deaths were linked to things that happened on social media, including bulling and posts that lead to suicide, overdoses from drugs obtained online and asphyxiation from participating in the “blackout challenge.”