Cruz, Lee Tear Into Meta's Zuckerberg About Child Sex Abuse Material

Cruz, Lee Tear Into Meta's Zuckerberg About Child Sex Abuse Material

Grayson Bakich
Grayson Bakich
January 31, 2024

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing with the CEOs of several social media companies, including Meta, Discord, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter), about the alarming proliferation of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) prevalent on their sites. In particular, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) discussed several aspects of the sites. Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) relentlessly pressed Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the "show me anyway" feature on Instagram content.

Sen. Lee was able to get in a zinger against Mr. Zuckerberg when asking about Instagram's recent announcement to block harmful topics from minors.

"That is great," said Sen. Lee, but "What is odd is I am trying to understand is why is it that Instagram is only restricting access to sexually explicit content, but only for teens ages 13 to 15. Why not restrict it for 16 and 17-year-olds as well?"

Mr. Zuckerberg replied that Instagram does not allow for sexually explicit content to anybody.

"And how is that going?" Lee asked back, provoking a few laughs.

In July, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody demanded Zuckerberg to appear before the Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking after investigations found that 61% of known victims were recruited over Meta platforms, while 85% of self-reported CSAM was found on the same services.

The prevalence of CSAM on Instagram and the way its system handles it became a heated subject with Sen. Cruz, who pointed out that when Instagram's algorithm warned users they might be seeing CSAM, the options were "get resources" or "show me anyway."

"Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking," a furious Sen. Cruz asked.

The Meta CEO explained the "get resources" option's intention was to direct users to report harmful material. But Cruz wanted to know, "In what sane universe is there a link for 'see results anyway?"

Zuckerberg replied this was in case the warning was false and there was no CSAM in the post warning may have it.

His answer only prompted Cruz to ask how often the warning appeared on Instagram posts, or if there were records of who clicked on "see results anyway," and what Instagram did in case this happened.

Zuckerberg could not adequately answer immediately, instead saying Meta would answer later.

The hearing comes a day after Florida Republicans acknowledged the litigation ahead for the statewide House Bill 1, which would prevent minors under the age of 16 from accessing social media. Conservative members of the Florida Legislature agreed with the bill in theory, but its applicability in practice was at odds with Florida's commitment to parental rights.

Additionally, conservative activist Charlie Kirk said the hearing was missing two important CEOs: those of Apple and Google/YouTube.

"The Senate Judiciary Committee has convened a hearing of tech CEO’s on children's mental health. It genuinely might be the single most important debate we can have. But there’s a GIANT glaring hole. Why are Apple and Google/YouTube being left out? How can you talk about children’s online experiences without two of the largest players in this space?" Kirk posted on X.

After the hearing, State Representative Paul Renner (R-19) called the testimonies "shocking" and said the CEOs of Meta, TikTok, Discord, and X "know their product is addictive & harmful to children."

"The testimony in the Senate has been shocking. The social media companies know their product is addictive & harmful to children. FL won't let these companies harm our children and I hope Congress acts swiftly to enforce common sense age verification to keep our children safe," said Renner.

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Grayson Bakich

Grayson Bakich

Florida born and raised, Grayson Bakich is a recent recipient of a Master’s Degree in Political Science at the University of Central Florida. His thesis examined recent trends in political polarization and how this leads into justification of violence.

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