Zuckerberg, Et Al: The Worst of the Worst

Last week’s dramatic hearing in the U.S. Senate, in which the heads of a number of social media companies testified in front of a gallery that was filled with parents who lost children because of the pernicious effects of social media companies, hopefully will result in meaningful regulation that will hold these social media companies accountable for their deliberate targeting of our nation’s youth with content that the companies know is harmful.

Arguably the worst offender among the group, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, apologized to the parents sitting behind him and weakly told them he would try to do better.  However, as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham bluntly put it directly to Zuckerberg, “You have blood on your hands.”

Two years ago the Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook was fully aware of the addictive and harmful qualities of its social media platforms and the specific damage that they cause to vulnerable young people. Yet Facebook has done nothing to ameliorate its behavior because of the billions of dollars it earns by targeting children with content that they know is dangerous for our childrens’ mental — and ultimately physical — well-being.

One of the most telling pieces of testimony came from the head of Tik-Tok, who was asked whether he allows his own children on the Tik-Tok platform. He replied that he doesn’t — because his family resides in Singapore, where Tik-Tok is not allowed to be used by children. However, as Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar pointed out, here in the United States there are no limits placed on social media companies because of the millions of dollars that they spend to lobby members of Congress.

The very next day after the Senate hearing, the stock of Facebook (which is now known as Meta) jumped by a whopping 20% after it announced record earnings, increasing the company’s value by hundreds of billions of dollars.

If we were to list the worst kind of people in the world, they would include murderers, rapists, child molesters, and drug dealers. But in this era of pervasive social media, we now can add a new type of sociopath — the heads of social media companies that deliberately prey upon our children, whom they view as nothing more than a profit-center for their businesses.

A new book by Boston native Frank McCourt, a billionaire real estate mogul and former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, makes the case for regulating social media companies because of the threat they pose to our children and our democracy. His central thesis is that we need to do so now before it is too late.

We call upon our national legislators, especially Senators Warren and Markey,  to support the bill in the Senate that will allow these social media companies to be sued by those whom they harm. As Senator Graham pointed out, the social media companies have refused to police themselves and the only way to do so is to “open the courtroom doors” to their victims.   

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