Graham tells Zuckerberg, ‘you have blood on your hands,’ audience cheers

Graham tells Zuckerberg, ‘you have blood on your hands,’ audience cheers

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., gave a harsh rebuke to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the onset of Wednesday’s highly anticipated Big Tech hearing on child exploitation online.

‘Mr. Zuckerberg, you and the companies before us. I know you don’t mean it to be so, but you have blood on your hands,’ Graham, ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, garnering applause from the audience. ‘You have a product that’s killing people.’ 

Graham referenced South Carolina state Rep. Brandon Guffey, who is suing Instagram after his 17-year-old son Gavin died by suicide after falling victim to an extortion group from Nigeria operating through the Meta-owned app. 

‘They threatened the young man that if you don’t give us money, we’re going to expose these photos. He gave them money, but it wasn’t enough. They kept threatening, and he killed himself. They threatened Mr. Guffey and a son. These are bastards. By any known definition,’ Graham said. 

Graham noted that Congress has taken action to regulate cigarettes and tobacco and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives regulates guns, yet social media companies are largely shielded from being held liable in court under Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code that was enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. 

‘The bottom line is you can’t be sued. You should be. And these emails would be great for punitive damages,’ Graham said, referencing Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., whom he dubbed the ‘dynamic duo’ for recently releasing 90 pages of internal emails from fall 2021 showing top Meta officials weighing the addition of dozens of engineers and other employees to focus on children’s well-being and safety. The emails show that one proposal to Zuckerberg for 45 new staff members was declined.

‘But the courtroom’s closed to every American abused by all the companies in front of me. Of all the people in America we could give blanket liability protection to, this would be the last group I would pick. It is now time to repeal Section 230,’ Graham said. 

‘We live in an America in 2024 where there is no regulatory body dealing with the most profitable, biggest companies in the history of the world,’ Graham said. ‘They can’t be sued. And there’s not one law on the books that’s meaningful in protecting the American consumer.’ 

Zuckerberg did not address Graham’s ‘blood on your hands comment’ directly in his own opening statement. 

‘Over the last eight years, we’ve built more than 30 different tools, resources and features that parents can set time limits for their teens using our apps, see who they’re following, or if they report someone for bullying,’ Zuckerberg said in part. 

‘Mental health is a complex issue and the existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health outcomes. A recent National Academies of Science report evaluated over 300 studies and found that research, quote, ‘did not support the conclusion that social media causes changes in adolescent mental health and also suggested that social media can provide significant positive benefits when young people use it to express themselves, explore and connect with others.’’ he said. 

‘Still, we’re going to continue to monitor the research and use it to inform our roadmap. Keeping people safe has been a challenge since the internet began. As criminals evolve their tactics, we have to evolve our defenses to comply with law enforcement to find bad actors and help bring them to justice. But the difficult reality is that no matter how much we invest or how effective our tools are, there are always more. There’s always more to learn and more improvements to make.’ 

‘We have around 40,000 people overall working on safety and security. We’ve invested more than $20 billion in this since 2016, including around $5 billion in the last year alone. We have many teams dedicated to child safety in all three and a lot of areas,’ Zuckerberg said. ‘Parents should have the final say on what apps are appropriate for their children and shouldn’t have to upload their ID every time. That’s what app stores are for.’ 

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