US senators wrote to Zuckerberg demanding answers to reports that Instagram’s algorithms facilitate child sexual abuse material. The letter came amid researchers saying they uncovered a network of accounts that commission and sell the images. The photo-sharing service’s algorithms promote the networks, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. The company says it’s working to fix the problem.
In a call with reporters, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he’s focusing on improving content moderation. He vowed to take action in response to the latest report. He also reiterated his commitment to a version of the platform for kids ages 10 to 12. But the company has yet to release any details about the product, which would be designed to be safer than the current one.
Amid heightened scrutiny of the tech industry, Congress has become increasingly aggressive in its efforts to regulate the companies that create and distribute the products Americans use every day. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is pushing to establish a national data privacy law that would strengthen Americans’ data protections, hold Big Tech accountable and set new safeguards for children online. In the Senate, the Judiciary Committee is leading the effort to regulate hate speech on social media and other platforms. At the same time, the Finance Committee has introduced legislation to rein in online gambling.
The Energy and Commerce Committee chairwoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., has been pressing the issue for years. She and her Democratic colleagues on the panel, Frank Pallone Jr. and Bill Delahunt, issued a joint statement on Friday demanding answers from Instagram about the reports that its algorithms promote child sexual abuse material. “We need to know how Instagram’s parent company, Meta, is protecting young people from the explicit content they see on their site,” the lawmakers said.
They urged the company to disclose how it protects children from harmful content and whether it plans to introduce more safeguards or make its policies easier to understand for its users. The senators also called for the company to be transparent about its advertising practices and how it addresses privacy concerns.
Zuckerberg has been meeting with senators to discuss data privacy and content moderation issues. A Democratic senator has proposed that Zuckerberg and other executives could face fines and jail time if they mislead customers about their companies’ privacy practices, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said in an interview with Willamette Week. Under current law, corporate executives can be prosecuted for false financial reporting but not for misleading consumers about their company’s practices.