Feb 1, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: Hawley presses Zuckerberg to compensate online harm victims

Mark Zuckerberg faces families in the Senate

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledges family members as they hold up photos during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley wrote to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg Thursday asking him to personally bankroll a victims' compensation fund for families of children who say they were exploited by Meta's platforms, per a letter shared exclusively with Axios.

Driving the news: On Wednesday Hawley prompted Zuckerberg to stand up and apologize to families at a Senate Judiciary hearing about online harms for children and the role of social media.

  • Hawley asked about a fund at the hearing as well, as he argued that Meta's products harm children and cited internal statistics about self-harm and sexual content viewed by younger users on Instagram.

What they're saying: "Yesterday, you publicly apologized to the families of children exploited by your platforms... Now you can show the world you were sincere," Hawley wrote in the letter.

  • "I urge you to immediately create a fund endowed by your own personal wealth for the purpose fo compensating those who have been victimized by your platforms..."
  • "You amassed your fortune from Facebook's growth; but while your platform grew, so did its role in enabling child exploitation."

The other side: At the hearing, Zuckerberg said the company's work is industry-leading and cited the large volume of harmful content the platform takes down every day, while pointing to Meta's tools for parents to control their kids' online experiences.

  • Meta did not respond to a request for comment.

Be smart: Demanding accountability from tech CEOs and forcing them to face families whose lives have been negatively impacted by social media is notable — but it's ultimately up to Congress to pass laws to compel changes in company behavior.

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