Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) blasted Mark Zuckerberg during a fiery Senate hearing, accusing the Facebook boss of “killing people.”
On Wednesday, the heads of social media giants Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and Snapchat are being grilled by the US Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington D.C.
Zuckerberg, whose company Meta runs Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, was sworn in alongside the four other tech titans on Wednesday.
The Big Tech heads were told “You have blood on your hands” as they faced a grilling on the dangers their platforms bring to children.
“The existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media, and young people having worse mental health outcomes,” he claimed in his opening remarks.
The committee earlier heard internal Meta documents made public during a lawsuit estimated 100,000 children were sexually harassed on its platforms every day.
Twitter’s Linda Yaccarino, TikTok chief executive Shou Zi Chew, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, and Discord’s Jason Citron will also give evidence.
Sen. Graham began the session with a stirring rebuke of all five tech bosses.
He accused their platforms of killing young people.
However, he zeroed in on Zuckerberg and Meta.
“Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us, I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands,” he said.
“You have a product that’s killing people.
“When we had cigarettes that were killing people, we did something about it – maybe not enough.
“You gonna talk about guns, we have the ATF… [but] nothing here, there’s not a damn thing anybody can do about it (social media), you can’t be sued.”
Graham said internal Meta emails showed Zuckerberg was warned about the dangers of his apps, but decided not to hire 45 people to “do a better job of policing this.”
“So the bottom line is you can’t be sued,” he continued.
“You should be, and these emails would be great for punitive damages, but the courtroom’s closed to every American abused by all the companies in front of me.”
Graham said social media was the last industry he would give blanket immunity from liability to, and it was time to repeal laws that did so.
The tech chieftains have been convened by the US Senate Judiciary Committee where they will be asked about the effects of social media in a session titled “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”
The hearing could be grueling for executives confronting political anger for not doing enough to thwart online dangers for children, including from sexual predators.
“There are no tools to hold the company accountable,” said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Democrat who heads the Judiciary Committee.
“Instead, survivors and advocates are left to plead with these companies to choose safety over profit.”
Zuckerberg said he was proud of the work his teams did to improve online child safety, not just on our services but across the entire internet.
Shou claimed the average of American TikTok users was more than 30.
However, he admitted many children used the platform.
Ahead of their testimony, Meta and X announced new measures seeking to satisfy any political pushback.
Meta, which owns the world’s leading platforms Facebook and Instagram, said it would block direct messages sent to young teens by strangers.
By default, teens under age 16 can now only be messaged or added to group chats by people they already follow or are connected to.
Meta also tightened content restrictions for teens on Instagram and Facebook making it harder for them to view posts that discuss suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders.
This is a developing story.
More to come as it unfolds.