Big Tech CEOs spoke to lawmakers Wednesday to address safety concerns for children and teenage users on social media platforms. Meta (META) CEO Mark Zuckerberg even apologized to families before the Senate Judiciary Board.
Wall Street Journal Tech Reporter Jeff Horwitz joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the hearings, noting regulation of social media has been “very limited” so far.
Horwitz said there’s “a consensus” on the need for platforms to invest more and “be more thoughtful in their feature designs” to improve protections. However, he questioned whether the current Congress is “well-suited to this field of regulation” given the number of older membership.
Horwitz highlighted Meta research revealing “known” and “foreseeable” mental health risks from using their platforms under “certain circumstances.”
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Editor’s note: This article was written by Angel Smith
JOSH LIPTON: Social media CEOs on the hot seat on Capitol Hill today. Lawmakers taking aim at them and their companies over the dangers they pose to children.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Senator, our job and what we take seriously is making sure that we build industry-leading tools, find harmful–
JOSH HAWLEY: To make money.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: –take it off the services–
JOSH HAWLEY: Oh, to make money.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: –and to build tools that empower parents–
JOSH HAWLEY: So you didn’t take any action, you didn’t take any action. You didn’t fire anybody. You haven’t compensated a single victim. Let me ask you this, let me ask you this. There’s families of victims here today. Have you apologized to the victims?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: I–
JOSH HAWLEY: Would like to do so now?
MARK ZUCKERBERG: Well–
JOSH HAWLEY: They’re here. You’re on national television. Would you like now to apologize to the victims who have been harmed by your product? Show them the pictures. Would you like to apologize for what you’ve done to these good people?
JOSH LIPTON: Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg apologizing to families of victims at a Senate Judiciary Committee today on safety and social media. Zuckerberg was among the tech execs facing questioning from lawmakers over allegations of abuse on sites like Instagram, TikTok, and X.
Joining us now, Jeff Horowitz, Wall Street Journal technology reporter. Jeff, it’s good to have you on the show. Maybe just to start, Jeff, give me your take on what we saw on Capitol Hill today. What did you learn, Jeff?
JEFF HORWITZ: I think we have– like, right now, there is a push to get child safety legislation through. Obviously, the history of regulating social media companies out of Washington has been, shall we say, very limited as the senators themselves observed. And look, there’s certainly some dramatic moments, and I think there’s no question that people on both sides of the aisle are very angry with the company.
Unlike with previous hearings, say, about things involving politics, there was at least a little more of a consensus as to what the platforms would need to be doing better, namely investing more and being a little more thoughtful in their feature designs and perhaps giving up some of the usage that they– that’s kind of the lifeblood of the platforms in exchange for safety. That said, I think the specifics of some of the questioning– there’s long been a question as to whether or not the current Congress, particularly given it’s the age of most of its members, is well-suited to this field of regulation. And I think that will still be outstanding.
JULIE HYMAN: I mean, at the same time, they see the effects, right, that these problems are having, I mean, when it struck by the fact that Zuckerberg said that science has not shown a causal link between social media and mental health outcomes among young people. So even if they don’t know exactly how to fix the problem, it seems as though the they understand the scope of the problem, right? So what are the next steps here, I guess, if there even are any?
JEFF HORWITZ: Yeah. So Zuckerberg said that there was no like causal link on the population level. And that is I think a number of caveats already embedded to the statement. And as the senators noted, the best understanding inside Meta by Meta’s own researchers was, in fact, that there are known instances and foreseeable instances in which the platforms could be expected to cause harm under certain circumstances.
That doesn’t mean it’s say it’s a net negative for the world or that it’s responsible for teen suicides, just that there are– it’s the company’s own work at this point is pretty damning on a few fronts. And that stuff has been brought into the public and, obviously, by both attorneys general and the press.
Now what’s next I think is the question of whether any of this stuff results in bills that get to a floor or get to the floor of the Senate. As the committee members themselves have noted, the legislations come out of committee before in unanimous fashion. It just hasn’t ever received a vote. And that’s something that the Senate leadership obviously has some control about. And likewise in the House.
So I don’t know that there’s certainty as to where this goes. But if there is going to be a place where Congress does decide to pass legislation regulating social media, this would be it.