“Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?”

The Meta CEO squirmed under the bright lights of last week’s Senate judiciary hearing on the harm social media is doing to our children. It was priceless to see, actually.

The multi-billionaire was grilled to the point of being nearly speechless, deflecting barbs while inferring that his platforms are a responsible communication tool. His response was straight from the CEO’s book of defensive actions, with the motto: never admit guilt. 

Senators are expressing deep concern, and rightfully so, that Facebook and Instagram are putting youth on a pedestal for pedophiles. If it’s not ‘sextortion,’ it’s bullying; if it’s not bullying, it’s mental health sabotage.

In defence, Zuckerberg says his company spends millions of dollars trying to protect children from online predators and the like, but people are not swayed and continue to accuse him of caring only for the jingle in his pockets.

Senator Marsha Blackburn reported that Zuckerberg referred to his teenage users (in terms of their lifetime value) to be worth approximately $270 each. This led her to accuse him of seeing children as a product, not a priority, adding that a child is bought and sold for sex in the US every two minutes.

Another senator, Lindsey Graham, told the solemn story about a young man on Instagram who became a victim of sextortion and later committed suicide. He then accused Zuckerman of having blood on his hands with a product that is killing people. Whether you agree with that or not, it’s a very strong statement.

Meta has been doing a great job of blocking Canadian media, including the Pioneer, from putting their news on Facebook. But they’re doing a poor job of protecting children using their addictive platforms. For example, Instagram displayed a warning to individuals searching for child sexual abuse materials. At the bottom of the screen it gave users two choices: “Get resources” and “see results anyway.” In the words of Senator Ted Cruz: “Mr. Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?” 

There is simply no accountability anymore. Try suing Meta and see how far you get.

The parents of these children whose lives have been destroyed deserve compensation, or at the very least a public apology and a signed promise that much more will be done to protect our youth from these dangerous platforms. However, parents have an ongoing responsibility to monitor what their children are doing online and to ensure they don’t get trapped on the dark side.

But the real responsibility lies with the Zuckerbergs of the world; the profiteers who target children to advance their wealth. For every child that is harmed or exploited there needs to be accountability to prevent it from happening to the next child, possibly your own . . . right now.                       

Lyonel Doherty, editor