Meta whistleblower Frances Haugen felt co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress was “powerful” on Wednesday — especially when he turned to apologize directly to families who blamed the toxicity of social media for the loss of a loved one.
“That apology, I think, is a turning point because it’s the first time he’s actually had to visibly face the consequences of his choices,” Haugen said on CNBC’s Last Call.
The hearing regarding child safety on social media featured several prominent tech CEOs from Discord, Snap, TikTok, and X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. But perhaps none drew more ire from lawmakers than Zuckerberg.
At one point, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley pressed Zuckerberg on research that showed minors were encountering inappropriate and unwanted content like nudity on Instagram at an alarming rate. Zuckerberg fumbled and then refused to answer Hawley’s question over who was fired in the wake of those revelations.
“Do you know who’s sitting behind you,” Hawley asked. “You’ve got families from across the nation whose children are either severely harmed or gone. You don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about steps that you took?”
Hawley implored Zuckerberg to apologize to those in attendance, and the CEO rose from his seat and turned to speak directly to the crowd.
“I’m sorry for everything that you have all been through. It’s terrible,” Zuckerberg said. “This is why we invest so much and are going to continue doing industry-leading efforts to make sure that no one has to go through the types of things that your families have had to suffer.”
Haugen, the former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower who leaked a trove of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal in 2021, said the apology was amplified by the many families in attendance.
“It was a full room,” Haugen said. “The energy was electric.”
Many of the internal documents Haugen leaked detailed the company’s knowledge of the potentially harmful impact social media platforms Facebook and Instagram may have on underage users.