mark zuckerberg

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Senators grilled the top executives from TikTok, Meta, X, Discord and Snapchat on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a U.S. Senate Judiciary hearing about the impact of social media on children. The hearing examined child sexual exploitation online and featured the testimony of children who have suffered abuse and bullying online.

The hearing was a rare time when Republicans and Democrats fought on the same side of an important issue.

"Elizabeth [Warren] and I see an abuse here that needs to be dealt with,” Republican Senator Lindsay Graham told the committee. “Senator Durbin and I have different political philosophies, but I appreciate what you've done on this committee. You've been a great partner. To all my Democratic colleagues, thank you very, very much. To my Republican colleagues, thank you all very, very much.”

“There is pretty clearly a bipartisan consensus that the status quo isn’t working,” New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez told the hearing. “When it comes to how these companies have failed to prioritize the safety of children, there’s clearly a sense of frustration on both sides of the aisle.”

During the hearing, Senator Graham highlighted the story of South Carolina State House Rep. Brandon Guffey, whose son died by suicide after being a victim of sexual extortion.

When asked if he had any response to the victims whom his products have harmed, Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was apologetic.

"I'm sorry for everything you have all been through," Zuckerberg said. "No one should go through the things that your families have suffered, and this is why we invest so much and we are going to continue doing industry-wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer."

At one point, Zuckerberg stood up and faced a group of parents who were holding pictures of their children who were victims of online harassment.

We’re dealing with a fundamental decision as to whether social media companies should be able to face lawsuits like any other company in America. 

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin was clear that he believes social media companies are a significant cause of many of the problems facing America’s youth. “They’re responsible for many of the dangers our children face online,” Durbin said in his opening statements. “Their design choices, their failures to adequately invest in trust and safety, their constant pursuit of engagement and profit over basic safety have all put our kids and grandkids at risk.”

The tech CEOs continuously touted their companies’ online safety features throughout the hearing. Zuckerberg noted that Meta spent $5 billion on security and safety in 2023.

Graham suggested that Congress work to repeal Section 230 which would give social media companies greater accountability. The federal law protects social media companies from being responsible for lawsuits arising from user-generated content.

“You have a product that’s killing people ... You can’t be sued, you should be!” Graham said. “It is now time to repeal Section 230.”

The purpose of the hearing was to work toward legislation that would make social media safer for young people. But it’s unclear whether the hearings will result in anything meaningful.

Facebook is in the midst of a subtle reckoning.

As the culture at large experiences deep structural changes, many are left questioning whether the social media giant has earned any place in the current conversation of racial justice, free speech, and the fight against hate groups.

While many at the leadership level of Facebook make a point of being seen as progressive and sympathetic to the movements they profess to support, it can be hard for any of that to ring true when their platform is a haven for white supremacist groups, conspiracy theorists and death threat factories.

Recently Facebook released the results of its independent audit, a report two years in the making that outlines clearly how Facebook has failed on civil rights. The report found that the companies reaction to hate speech, bias, polarization, and diversity was grievously lacking. According to the report, the company has categorically failed to remove a deluge of hate groups and abusers on the platform.

Rashad Robinson, the president of Color of Change, had some blunt words regarding the company, "Ridding the platform of hate and misinformation against Black people only became a priority when there was a PR crisis to endure"

Concerning the report, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that the company "won't make every change they call for," but that Facebook leadership "will put more of their proposals into practice."

As the company scrambles to steer their enormity back into the good graces of a rapidly suspicious public, the question remains - what can Facebook do to be better?

Here are 5 things.

One - Commit to preventing data breaches

Starting with Cambridge Analytica, a UK-based consultancy with sinister ties to the 2016 election, Facebook has a dismal track record of policing bad actors on the platform - this particular one collected and used the data of tens of thousands of Facebook's more than 2 billion users for various nefarious outcomes. This was followed by a breach that affected 50 million people on the site, and after that another breach that compromised the data of 29 million people, including phone numbers, names, email addresses and for many, dates of birth.

Facebook must put in place a more formidable security apparatus instead of simply apologizing when a litany of breaches take place.

Two - Honestly communicate with its biggest critics

From the beginning Facebook has taken a dim view of those who do not share the view that they are the greatest social fabric weaver of the modern world. For many who have taken issue with their countless gaffes and failures, Facebook is woefully lacking in humility and the desire to listen to their members. From enabling ethnic cleansing in Myanmar to allowing Nazis to organize and sell merchandise on their platform, Facebook has systematically demonstrated an utter lack of self awareness.

By bringing together the voices of those calling for changes in their company, and simply listening to their grievances, much could be achieved if only Facebook leadership would lend an ear without being dragged into the process unwillingly for PR.

Three - Listen.

In order to understand the deeper issues inherent in the companies approach to their practices, a good person to listen to is Rashad Robinson. Robinson is the executive director of Color of Change, the country's largest racial-justice organization, and one of the people who organized the high-profile advertising boycott that shook Facebook in July.

As described on a recent podcast, "he was part of a meeting with Facebook executives about the July ad boycott of Facebook, to discuss the demands he and those companies have made to the social-media platform. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were on the call, and he was not impressed by Zuckerberg's performance."

He relays how in the meeting, Facebook executives were repeatedly praising themselves saying how "They're so much better. They're working so much harder. They have done things that other folks won't do."

He says, "This is the kind of constant line. At some point, someone in the meeting said, "So, I guess what you're saying is that you're doing everything right and that we're just crazy." They're like, "No, no, that's not what we're saying." I'm like, "Well, what are you saying?"

A corporate culture of viewing outsiders as assailants instead of welcome and constructive voices has hindered the companies growth, and has harmed the level of trust they can be given.

Four - Take a stand.

Corporate cowardice and a strategy of aiming to please all users has paralyzed Facebook and left it in a quagmire of its own vague indecision. By attempting to be utterly impartial, the company has ensured that the platform has become a safe haven for dangerous misinformation, political influence, hateful rhetoric, abuse, death threats, medical malpractice and more.

In order for Facebook to enjoy the privileges of a company welcomed by the culture and accepted by users as trustworthy, it is vital that they cobble together some semblance of a value system.

At this point in the life cycle of the platform, it's almost impossible to see what, if anything, the company believes in other than being an open playing field for false information, conspiracy theories and racist memes.

Facebook must clearly delineate what they do and do not stand for.

Five - Empower new voices.

While Facebook has made great strides in ensuring their new hires are reflective of the changes so desperately needed at the company - it's vital that these are not merely symbolic positions.

Those who have a new vision for how the company can be better must be empowered to implement those plans. Too often a company will ride the praise escalator when hiring a newly created position that promises change, yet relegate that person to a headline in an email to a PR agency.

Facebook must be prepared to utilize their new talent, and be bold when deciding just how much they're willing to change in order to be the company they profess to actually be.

Lately it seems Facebook has had the PR goodwill of a Bill Cosby comeback tour - from their inability to remove extreme hate groups, to their seemingly tone deaf response regarding the enormous upheaval making its way through every fibre of the nation. The social media juggernaut often professes to be on the cutting edge of progressive change, however many are profoundly concerned over the companies lack of actual policy change in the face of growing criticism.

One of these concerned parties is Rashad Robinson. He is the executive director of Color of Change, the country's largest racial-justice organization, and one of the people who organized the high-profile advertising boycott that shook Facebook in July.

Sitting down with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway for an episode of New York's "Pivot Podcast", Robinson outlined his feelings on the hypocrisy on display at Facebook, one of the most powerful media forces in the modern world.

Swisher mentions this in her opening, explaining "he was part of a meeting with Facebook executives about the July ad boycott of Facebook, to discuss the demands he and those companies have made to the social-media platform. Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were on the call, and he was not impressed by Zuckerberg's performance."

Robinson detailed the experience with Zuckerberg and his team, "Before the meeting, we had shared the list of demands again, and the demands are not complicated. They'd been part of ongoing meetings and protests. Some of them have been highlighted in previous versions of the civil-rights audit that have come out over the past year and a half, two years. So we got there really with the goal of having them tell us what they thought and where they were heading, because they actually requested the meeting. And you know, I've been in a lot of meetings with Facebook. I'm going to meetings with a lot of corporations, and they get trained on how to run out the clock. They have these strategies on how to have a meeting where they get you to talk a lot and then they don't actually have to tell you anything new. And so I took the lead. I really sort of pushed him, like, "Hey, you've got the demands. We actually want to go through them."

Photo by Glen Carrie on Photo by Glen Carrie on

As Facebook leadership began stalling for time during the meeting by outlining all the aspirational goals that Facebook had in mind, Robinson reached his limit. He relays how in the meeting, Facebook executives were repeatedly praising themselves saying how "They're so much better. They're working so much harder. They have done things that other folks won't do."

He goes on to explain the issue with what comes across as a constant barrage of empty platitudes, "This is the kind of constant line. At some point, someone in the meeting said, "So, I guess what you're saying is that you're doing everything right and that we're just crazy." They're like, "No, no, that's not what we're saying." I'm like, "Well, what are you saying?"

It's here where talks begin to break down and give way to a dark realization, Facebook doesn't know how to please everyone — nor can they.

Aside from Facebook's overall compromise play, Robinson has grave concerns over how they operate culturally, "The technology that's supposed to bring us into the future is in so many ways dragging us into the past. We had created a sense of social contracts around the ways that white nationalists could organize, right? They can't organize at the Starbucks in a public space and have a meeting. They couldn't do things out in public, but the incentive structures at Facebook have allowed people to not only organize, but … A 15-year-old that is searching for one thing runs into some white-nationalist content and then goes down a hole because they get served more and more of this content. Because the ways that the algorithms are set up, people are almost indoctrinated into these ideas that we've tried to put at the margins. Facebook has created a space that feels like home, that makes these things comfortable, that makes these things acceptable. And to that extent, they've been damaging."

Photo by Clay Banks on

When speaking about his conversations with Black Lives Matter Co-Founder, Alicia Garza, Robinson is blunt, "Alicia gets regular death threats on Facebook. She has to go through the same decision tree that anyone else has to go through. She's had about 20 death threats over the last several months. And Facebook has declined to take action on every one of them through automation. They say something about how it doesn't violate terms. And she's never gotten a phone call from Facebook, no outreach, no engagement that one would expect. This is Alicia, who's on TV, who is well known — and Facebook actually uses her name. They use her work in the cases they make around this, and they don't even respond to the attacks that she's getting. It's because they don't care. The same way Mark can say that these Fortune 500 advertisers don't matter, he's on the other hand saying that Black activists' voices don't matter either."

Robinson finds the root of his issues with Facebook in their complicity, "…in order to keep profit and growth going, they actually have to stay friends with those in power."

When searching for a long term answer to how Facebook can be kept in check, Robinson offers, "I think financial pressure is important as well as hopefully changing the political levers in Washington. That to me is the long game, because even this type of effort feels like something that we just can't be constantly doing, going against the largest advertising platform the world has ever known. It just can't simply be about asking advertisers to walk away."

It seems that in their quest to please everyone on the platform, Facebook has ended up marginalizing activists, amplifying hate groups, and are in dire need of taking a stand for something. Many are struggling to see if they do, in fact, stand for anything.

Prominent members of the business community looking to put people before profits spoke out against President Trump's immigration order this weekend — an unexpected but welcome part of the backlash to the ban.

On Jan. 30, 2017, Gillian Tett of the Financial Times appeared on CNBC to discuss the financial risks of businesses that face off against the president and how those risks leave many CEOs loathe to speak out against any individual policy, even if they oppose it on personal and professional levels.

"They are scared out of their minds about being attacked [by Trump] ... and what that's going to do for their business," she explained.

Those CEOs aren't wrong to worry, either. Since being elected, Trump has continually taken aim at companies that have criticized him, using his Twitter account to tank their stock prices.

In December 2016, after Boeing's CEO made an argument in favor of trade agreements, Trump fired off a series of tweets about canceling plans to use the company for the new Air Force One series of planes. As a result, the company's stock price fell by 1% before recovering. Trump's tweet about Boeing and a $4 billion contract was a bit of an exaggeration; the company has a $170 million contract, which a tweet cannot cancel.

Knowing that a Trump-fueled attack on their companies — and the value of their shares — could be waiting just around the corner, here are 15 companies and CEOs who took a stand against the immigration ban this weekend:

1. Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky offered free housing to people affected by the travel ban.

On a statement posted to its website, the company also offered a way for Airbnb hosts to volunteer help.

2. Dropbox founder and CEO Drew Houston called Trump's order "un-American."

3. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson spoke out against the order and urged others to contact legislators and support organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union.

4. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted an essay to his profile sharing the story of his and his wife Priscilla's immigrant and refugee origins.

"We should also keep our doors open to refugees and those who need help," Zuckerberg wrote. "That's who we are. Had we turned away refugees a few decades ago, Priscilla's family wouldn't be here today."

My great grandparents came from Germany, Austria and Poland. Priscilla's parents were refugees from China and Vietnam....

Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Friday, January 27, 2017

5. Google created a crisis fund to support immigrant-rights organizations.

According to a statement provided to USA Today, Google has created a $4 million crisis fund for four immigrant-rights organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee, and UNHCR.

"We’re concerned about the impact of this order and any proposals that could impose restrictions on Googlers and their families, or that could create barriers to bringing great talent to the U.S.," said the company. "We'll continue to make our views on these issues known to leaders in Washington and elsewhere."

Google headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.

6. Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta donated $100,000 to the ACLU — and didn't stop there.

In a short Twitter thread on Sunday evening, Instacart founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta announced a $100,000 donation to the ACLU, the creation of "office hours" with immigration attorneys for employees and their families, and a pledge to expedite H-1B visas and green cards for employees in need.

7. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner used Trump's ban as an opportunity to boost and expand the company's Welcome Talent program for refugees in the U.S.

8. In a blog post, ride-hailing app Lyft's co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green committed to a $1 million donation to the ACLU over the next four years.

"We created Lyft to be a model for the type of community we want our world to be: diverse, inclusive, and safe. This weekend, Trump closed the country's borders to refugees, immigrants, and even documented residents from around the world based on their country of origin. Banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft's and our nation's core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community. We know this directly impacts many of our community members, their families, and friends. We stand with you, and are donating $1,000,000 over the next four years to the ACLU to defend our constitution. We ask that you continue to be there for each other - and together, continue proving the power of community."

A Lyft driver in San Francisco. Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Lyft.

9. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings didn't mince words on his Facebook page, calling Trump's executive order "so un-American it pains us all."

Trump's actions are hurting Netflix employees around the world, and are so un-American it pains us all. Worse, these...

Posted by Reed Hastings on Saturday, January 28, 2017

10. Nike's president and CEO took a stand against the ban in an email to employees.

Looking to Olympian Mo Farah's statement on how Trump's ban would prevent the four-time gold medalist from returning to his home in the U.S., Nike President and CEO Mark Parker emailed employees, urging them to "[stand] together against bigotry and any form of discrimination."

11. Postmates founder and CEO Bastian Lehmann — who also happens to be an immigrant — wrote a blog post skewering the Trump administration, saying, "I no longer believe it to be reasonable to remain silent."

He also pledged to match employee donations to the ACLU and International Refugee Assistance Project.

"The trade-off of these policies is obvious. In exchange for the guise of safety rooted in fear of those with different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds we will be abandoning the diverse melting pot of culture and ideas that has made the United States prosper. That is the bedrock that creative growing companies like Postmates have been built upon. Ignoring the dynamics of this diversity, which is distinctly American and has set our country apart from the rest the world throughout history is short sighted and damaging."

Bastian Lehmann at TechCrunch Disrupt London in 2015. Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch.

12. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff shared some poignant scripture and a well-known (if sadly ignored) piece of poetry, using the hashtag #noban.

13. Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield delivered an impassioned argument against the administration's actions and shared his family's own story of immigration.

"My grandfather came from Poland between the wars, at 17, sponsored by an elder sister," he wrote.

"Two more siblings made it. Everyone else died. Their parents were shot in the streets and thrown in a mass grave (we believe). Their other siblings died in the camps. Every cousin (and really, everyone they knew) was killed. That whole branch of the family tree snuffed out. And now we want to do this to others. It's bewildering and confusing and terrifying."

14. In a letter to employees, Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz unveiled a four-part rebuke to Trump's actions toward immigrants and refugees.

The plan includes supporting DACA, hiring refugees, building bridges with Mexico instead of walls, and committing to support Starbucks employees if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Schultz also pledged to hire 10,000 refugees in 75 countries over the next five years.

15. Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey called the executive order "upsetting."

The day the order was signed, Dorsey shared a mini-documentary about Yassin Terou, a Syrian refugee living in the U.S.

Long before his political aspirations took flight, Trump was a CEO, which makes the response from the business community even more powerful.

If he refuses to listen to the American people and fellow politicians, perhaps it'll be the judgment of the country's corporate leaders that sways Trump's opinion one way or another.

CEOs and business leaders who are willing to take a stand against some of Trump's harmful policies may be one of the more effective ways of communicating with him.