The political reaction in the USA against the exposure of children generated by Social media companies

Nothing justifies economic ambition to generate this type of misfortune in families

Foto VOA
Foto VOA

This week in the United States, the Senate Justice Committee summoned the CEOs of Social media companies: Facebook and Instagram, TikTok, X, and more to testify about the exploitation of children through social networks.

These billion-dollar companies are claimed to have been the material and formal cause of addictions, eating disorders, sexual abuse, and suicides of adolescents, and even children, trapped by the algorithms that these companies use to increase traffic on the networks. They are also accused of not having developed any instruments to prevent these problems.

As reported by VOA, Meta has been sued by more than a dozen states, which point out that the company deliberately designed tools on Instagram and Facebook to get children addicted to its platforms. The State of New Mexico has also sued the company for the lack of protection of children against sexual predators who operate on the networks.

The session featured emails from Nick Clegg, Meta‘s president of global affairs, and other company officials, asking Zuckerberg to hire more staff to work on growing concerns about the platforms’ effects on people’s mental health youths. In an email to Zuckerberg in August 2021, Nick Clegg noted:

From a political perspective, this work has become enormously urgent in recent months. Politicians in the USA, UK, European Union and Australia are publicly and privately expressing their concerns about the impact our products have on the mental health of young people.

However, this email did not receive any response from Zuckerberg. Added to this fact is that in September of that same year (2021), The Wall Street Journal launched a report titled Facebook Files, which contains internal company documents that have been accessed by Frances Haugen, a Facebook employee, which has delivered this evidence of Zuckerberg’s lack of interest in the impact on adolescents’ mental health to the American authorities.

As reported by VOA, according to Arturo Béjar, former engineering director of Meta, known publicly for his experience in stopping online harassment, and who has recently testified before the American Congress about the safety processes for children on the platforms of Meta:

they know how much harm teenagers are experiencing, but they will not commit to reducing it, much less being transparent about this issue. They have the infrastructure to do it, the research, the people: it is a priority issue.

Throughout the session, senators from both parties, Democrats and Republicans, were unanimous in criticizing these companies for the lack of protection that children have suffered. Also in the room were several parents and relatives of the adolescents who have died or who have had complications due to addiction problems. At certain moments, they silently held up photos of their loved ones.

At one point during the session, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham referred to the companies as follows: “After years of working with you and others, I have come to the conclusion that Social media companies, as they are currently designed and operated, they are harmful products.” And the Senator from Missouri, Josh Hawley, strongly demanded from Zuckerberg the need to personally compensate the families of the victims; and he suggested she apologize publicly. Zuckerberg stood up, turned to the audience, and apologized for everything the families had gone through.

In the environment, a premise became clear: nothing justifies economic ambition to generate this type of misfortune in families. Therefore, the business sector must be aware of its role in society; and work for the common good, and not just for their own economic benefit.​