It also saw some bizarre racism by one senator who apparently can’t tell the difference between Singapore and China …
As we noted earlier this week, the CEOs of five social media companies faced questions on whether they are doing enough to protect teens from harm.
Zuckerberg suggested in prepared testimony that the responsibility for age verification ought to be handed to Apple and Google, when first downloading social media apps – a somewhat odd stance for a company whose services are also accessible via the web.
Zuckerberg apologises to families
The hearing was, unsurprisingly, intended as something of a political spectacle, allowing senators to be seen as caring, and willing to take on big tech, in the run-up to presidential election. One particularly cringeworthy element was having the families of those whose children who had taken their own lives sit directly behind the execs.
Asked whether he had anything to say to them, BBC News shared footage of him standing and turning to face them.
During another exchange with Republican Senator Josh Hawley, Mr Zuckerberg was invited to apologise to the families sitting behind him.
He stood up, turned to the audience and said: “I’m sorry for everything you’ve all gone through, it’s terrible. No-one should have to go through the things that your families have suffered.”
At one point, when TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew was testifying, one senator asked a bizarre question.
US Senator Tom Cotton asked Mr Chew, who is from Singapore, if he had ever belonged to the Chinese Communist Party.
“Senator, I’m Singaporean. No,” Mr Chew replied.
Mr Cotton then asked, “Have you ever been associated or affiliated with Chinese Communist Party?”
Mr Chew responded: “No, senator. Again, I’m Singaporean.”
Seems some politicians know as much about geography as they do about technology.
Sound and fury signifying nothing
Social media industry analyst Matt Navarra noted that no concrete proposals were put forward by the senators asking the questions.
[The hearing provided] “lots of US political grandstanding” and a perfect photo opportunity provided by Mr Zuckerberg’s apology.
He added that despite senators agreeing on the need for bipartisan legislation to regulate platforms, the question of what happens next remained unclear.
“We’ve seen these hearings time and time again and they have often, so far, led still to not actually generate any significant or substantial regulation,” he said.
Screengrab: US Senate Committee on the Judiciary
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