Mr Cruz and Mr Zuckerberg’s intense exchange took place during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the role of major tech companies and the exploitation of children. During Mr Cruz’s time to question, he asked about the proliferation of hashtags on Instagram that let predators find child sex abuse images.
Similarly, he noted that Instagram displayed a warning screen saying “These results may contain images of child sexual abuse” before asking whether users wanted to get resources or see the images anyway.
“Mr Zuckerberg, what the hell were you thinking?” Mr Cruz asked Mr Zuckerberg.
“Senator, the basic science behind that when people are searching for something that is problematic, it's often rather than just blocking it to help direct them toward that,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
But Mr Cruz pushed back.
“I understand ‘get resources.’ In what sane universe is there a link for ‘see results anyway?’” the Texas Republican asked.
“Well, because we might be wrong,” Mr Zuckerberg said. In response, Mr Cruz asked how many times was the wording on the screen displayed. In response, Mr Zuckerberg said he did not know off the top of his head, to which Mr Cruz responded by saying that in 2023, he sent a letter which Mr Cruz said Meta refused to answer.
“Will you commit right now to within five days answering this question for this,” Mr Cruz asked.
“Senator, I’ll personally look into it,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
Tech executives, including Linda Yaccarino of X, Jason Citron of Discord and TikTok Shou Zi Chew also faced heated questioning from senators from both parties on the committee.
Mr Cruz also grilled Mr Chew for why various content was being repressed on TikTok, specifically related to the genocide of Uighur people in China and the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.