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Mark Zuckerburg and Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel Apologize to Parents at Congressional Social Media Hearing

The Meta and Snapchat CEOs were among those confronted by senators Wednesday about the impacts their platforms have on the general public, especially young people

<p>Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty (2)</p> Mark Zuckerberg; Evan Spiegel

Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty (2)

Mark Zuckerberg; Evan Spiegel

Meta and Snapchat CEOs Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel apologized Wednesday to parents attending a Senate hearing addressing online child safety on Capitol Hill.

The apologies were delivered after prompting from senators on both sides of the aisle at the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing, called “Big Tech and the Online Child Sexual Exploitation Crisis.”

Zuckerberg, 39, apologized first after he was confronted by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley about issues such as the number of girls who were exposed to unwanted nudity on Instagram, which is owned by Meta.

Members of the audience stood up and clapped as Hawley urged Zuckerberg to apologize “to the victims who have been harmed” by his platforms’ practices, as well as compensate them.

<p>Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty (2)</p>

Kent Nishimura/Bloomberg/Getty (2)

Related: Instagram, Facebook Are Addictive and Harmful for Kids, Sweeping Lawsuits from 41 States Claim

"I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through," said Zuckerberg, who stood up and faced the crowd. "It’s terrible. No one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered."

He added, “This is why we have invested so much and we are going to continue doing industry-wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.”

<p>Anna Moneymaker/Getty</p> Mark Zuckerberg speaking directly to parents at the Jan. 31 hearing

Anna Moneymaker/Getty

Mark Zuckerberg speaking directly to parents at the Jan. 31 hearing

Later in the hearing, Spiegel apologized to families whose children died after purchasing drugs on Snapchat, where he has served as CEO since 2012, after prompting from California Sen. Laphonza Butler.

"I'm so sorry that we have not been able to prevent these tragedies," Spiegel said.

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Spiegel then claimed the company does what it can to “proactively look for and detect drug-related content” and “remove it” from the platform, as well as help educate young people about drugs.

<p>Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty</p> Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel

Zuckerberg and Spiegel were among five CEOs grilled by senators on Wednesday. TikTok’s Shou Chew, X’s Linda Yaccarino and Discord’s Jason Citron also faced tough questions from the bipartisan committee regarding safety on their platforms.

In addition to mental health and access to illicit drugs, the CEOs faced sharp criticism for several other issues facing their platforms such as national security and underage users.

During his exchange with Hawley, Zuckerberg claimed it is Meta’s job “to create tools that keep people safe” on the platforms they control. He also suggested the issues with underage users lie more with Apple and Google, which run the app stores where social media platforms like Meta’s Facebook and Instagram can be downloaded — though they can also be accessed through web browsers.

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However, Zuckerberg also said it would be “trivial” to pass a law requiring parents to have control of their children’s downloads. “My understanding is Apple and Google, or at least Apple, already requires parental consent when a child does a payment with an app,” he told the committee.

But some people remain unconvinced by Zuckerberg’s words. Arielle Geismar, a 22-year-old who says she was impacted by eating disorder content on Instagram, told CNN that she felt Zuckerberg understated the link between social media and mental health.

<p>Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty</p> Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg

"It feels disgusting to sit there and be lied to,” Geismar said. “His words are less than a drop in the bucket … it is really, really nice for him to be able to say a few words and assuage everything, but it doesn’t bring back any human and it doesn’t take back the harm.”

TikTok has also come under fire for promoting harmful content, including content regarding mental health. During a Congressional hearing in March 2023, Chew said TikTok takes mental health issues “very seriously” and provides resources in many situations.

Related: The Biggest Bombshells from the TikTok Ban Hearing

Regarding the committee’s concerns about TikTok, Chew reaffirmed that neither the app nor its parent company ByteDance Inc., is under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party.

He also suggested it was “a coincidence” that he was appointed CEO one day after the Chinese Communist Party's China internet investment fund bought a 1% stake in ByteDance's main Chinese subsidiary.

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