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Senators press Zuckerberg for info on child sexual abuse material appearing on Instagram | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

A bipartisan group of senators is pressing Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to take action against child sexual abuse material visible on Instagram, or face consequences from Congress.

Ten lawmakers from the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to Mr. Zuckerberg to demand information in response to allegations that Instagram’s algorithm is promoting and facilitating sexual activity with children.

“We are gravely concerned that Instagram’s failure to prevent this perverse use of its algorithms is not due to a lack of ability, but instead a lack of initiative and motivation,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter on Wednesday. “In other contexts, Meta has taken steps to map out user networks facilitated by its algorithm, and has even been able to suppress unlawful user content within those networks.”

The lawmakers’ pressure comes in the aftermath of researchers saying earlier this month that they uncovered a vast pedophile network facilitated by Instagram.

Researchers from Stanford University, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the Wall Street Journal reported finding a large network of accounts devoted to the purchase and commission of child sexual content on Instagram. The Journal said Instagram has connected pedophiles and guided them toward content sellers.

The six Democrats and four Republicans from the Judiciary Committee said they united across partisan lines to fight online child sexual exploitation and requested Mr. Zuckerberg answer them by July 12.

“We refuse to let those who traffic in CSAM subject children to these harms and alter the course of their lives,” the lawmakers wrote. “And we refuse to accept Meta’s facilitation of these crimes.”

Meta is aware of the mounting scrutiny of how its platforms address children online. Earlier this week, Meta announced it was introducing new parental supervision tools on Instagram and Messenger, the company’s instant messaging platform. 

Meta’s announcement said it was testing new features to limit how people interact with and message those who do not follow them. The company said it already shows “safety notices” when adults displaying suspicious behavior online message teens, and restricts people over 19 years old from sending messages to teens who do not follow them.

Asked about the senators’ letter on Friday, Meta referred The Washington Times to its response earlier this month to the Journal that called child exploitation a horrific crime that the company is actively looking to combat.

Congress is also studying several proposals to fight online harm jeopardizing child safety, including the EARN IT Act, which advanced through the Senate Judiciary Committee in May.

The EARN IT Act’s authors, including more than 20 total Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, have said their bill would deal a blow to Big Tech by removing the companies’ immunity from legal liability for child abuse material posted on their platforms.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who wrote to Mr. Zuckerberg this week and co-sponsored the EARN IT Act, said in May he anticipated the bill would go nowhere after advancing through committee.

Individual states have taken actions intending to stop online danger for children as Congress deliberates. Arkansas and Utah’s governors signed restrictions into law earlier this year that limit children’s social media usage and require age verification and parental consent.

NetChoice, a tech industry trade group counting Meta as a member, sued Arkansas on Thursday to challenge its social media law requiring parental permission set to take effect Sept. 1.

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.


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