A Second Meta Whistleblower Testifies - The Giant Has Failed Kids

On Tuesday, a second Meta whistleblower appeared before a Senate subcommittee, detailing the potential harm that Meta inflicts on teens.

On Tuesday, a second whistleblower from Meta appeared before a Senate subcommittee, detailing what they described as ineffective attempts to highlight the potential harm that Meta’s platforms could inflict on teens, as well as the indifference of high-level executives within the company.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and Law, Arturo Bejar, a former Facebook engineering director from 2009 to 2015 and later a consultant at Instagram from 2019 to 2021, alleged that senior Meta officials had not done enough to mitigate the harm that the company’s youngest users were suffering on the platforms.

Politicians from both parties accused tech lobbying of being the reason Congress has failed to enact legislation to safeguard children online. Bills designed to protect children have garnered considerable support in Senate committees, yet they have ultimately remained stagnant, pending a Senate floor vote or House action.

Bejar’s appearance underscored lawmakers’ frustration with the perception that big tech companies wield nearly unbridled power.

Bejar’s Allegations Bejar recently leveled accusations against the company in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He follows in the footsteps of another former Meta employee, Frances Haugen, who brought the company’s safety issues to light before the Senate and media outlets by leaking internal documents and research.

On Tuesday, Bejar told lawmakers that despite Meta leadership being aware of the repeated harms to its youngest users, it had chosen not to take decisive action to address them.

“When I returned in 2019, I thought they didn’t know,” Bejar testified. But after a meeting with Cox, he no longer held that belief.

Bejar argues that one of the problems is Meta’s dedication of resources to addressing what he sees as a “very narrow definition of harm.” He suggests that to truly grasp the extent of harm to specific groups, it is vital to analyze the prevalence of various harms on the platform across different user demographics.

On October 4, 2021—the day Haugen, the first Facebook whistleblower, testified in the Senate—Bejar sent emails to the CEOs of Meta and Instagram, Sheryl Sandberg, and other top Meta executives.

Giving the committee access to the email and a host of other documents, Bejar directly addressed Zuckerberg and noted that he had previously raised concerns with Sandberg, Mosseri, and Cox.

Blaming Tech Money for Lack of New Laws Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Subcommittee Chair Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced their Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) as an essential response to the harms Bejar detailed. KOSA aims to make tech companies more accountable for creating kid-friendly products.

Before the hearing commenced, Blumenthal stated to reporters, “The time has come for Congress to provide protection tools that parents and kids can use to disconnect from those algorithms, those black boxes that amplify toxic content.”

He addressed concerns from some progressive groups that the bill could negatively impact at-risk children, such as LGBTQ youth, by asserting that revisions had taken their concerns into account.

KOSA should be implemented across all social media platforms for the safety and security of our children. As the saying goes, our children are the future!

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