Ex-Engineer Testifies on Meta’s Youth Safety Inaction

8 November, 2023 - 12:54 pm (22 days ago)
1 min read

A former Meta engineer has brought new allegations before Congress, shedding light on persistent safety issues that plague young users on the company’s social media platforms. Arturo Béjar, previously a director of engineering for Protect and Care at Facebook, highlighted the company’s continued disregard for the well-being of its younger demographic, despite his previous attempts to spur change from within.

Allegations Against Meta

During a recent Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, Béjar testified that his warnings, including a direct email to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, went largely unacknowledged. His daughter’s disturbing experiences on Instagram, involving unwanted sexual advances and misogynistic comments, were met with inaction from the platform, leading Béjar to accuse Meta of underreporting the extent of harm users encounter.

A Father’s Plea for Change

Béjar’s tenure at Meta from 2009 to 2015 saw him overseeing the development of safety tools aimed at protecting users from bullying and harassment. However, upon returning in 2019, he discovered that many of these tools had been dismantled, leaving users, especially teenagers, vulnerable. His testimony detailed a significant disparity between Meta’s internal data on abuses faced by teens and the sanitized reports provided to the public.

Corporate Inaction in the Face of Harm

The former engineering director pointed out that Meta’s current policies fail to adequately address the types of abuse that do not outright violate its terms, leaving a gap in protection. He advocated for the implementation of straightforward features that would enable young users to reject inappropriate content and advances, suggesting that Meta’s reluctance is rooted in a lack of transparency.

A Call for Legislative Action

Béjar’s appearance before the subcommittee adds substantial weight to the growing call for legislative action to enforce online safety for children. The Kids Online Safety Act, although previously stalled, gains renewed significance in light of these revelations. Béjar’s insights, coupled with the recent lawsuit from 41 states alleging that Meta’s platforms have fueled a youth mental health crisis, underscore the urgency for regulatory oversight.

The testimony of a father and former Meta engineer has reignited a crucial debate on the safety of social media for young users. With evidence pointing to systemic failures within Meta’s platforms, the onus is now on Congress to establish a regulatory framework that prioritizes the protection of its most vulnerable users. As the industry faces scrutiny, the path forward demands transparency, accountability, and a steadfast commitment to the well-being of all users, especially children.

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Bilgesu Erdem

tech and internet savvy, cat lover.

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