Meta whistleblower says company execs know about harm to kids and fail to take action

WASHINGTON — A former Facebook employee is speaking out against the social media giant after he said his own teen daughter was harassed on Instagram.

Arturo Bejar is a former Facebook engineering director who later rejoined the company now known as Meta as a consultant for Instagram.

Bejar’s explosive testimony focused on two key points: He argued Meta knows about the extent of the threats to teens and kids and said the company executives know they aren’t doing enough to stop it.

“I appear before you today as a dad with firsthand experience of a child who received unwanted sexual advances on Instagram,” Bejar told the Senate subcommittee.

Bejar outlined findings from a 2021 survey while he worked for Instagram.

“We found that one in eight kids age 13 to 15 years old experienced unwanted sexual advances in the last seven days,” said Bejar.

Bejar said he shared that data with Meta’s executives.

“Mark Zuckerberg, did he reply to you?” asked Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri).

“He did not reply,” said Bejar.

“Did he meet with you?” continued Hawley.

“He did not meet with me,” said Bejar.”

“In other words, the people who had recruited you to come back to Facebook, Meta… they ignored your findings when you presented data to them they didn’t want to see so they turned a blind eye.”

Bejar was critical of Meta’s strategies to respond to harmful content.

“The company wanted to focus on enforcing its own narrowly defined policies regardless of whether that approach reduced the harm that teens were experiencing,” said Bejar.

In response to Bejar’s testimony, a spokesperson for Meta told our Washington News Bureau:

“Every day countless people inside and outside of Meta are working on how to help keep young people safe online. The issues raised here regarding user perception surveys highlight one part of this effort, and surveys like these have led us to create features like anonymous notifications of potentially hurtful content and comment warnings. Working with parents and experts, we have also introduced over 30 tools to support teens and their families in having safe, positive experiences online. All of this work continues.”

Bejar, meanwhile, argues the company isn’t doing enough.

“Meta must be held accountable for their recommendations and for the unwanted sexual advances that Instagram enables,” said Bejar. “Meta knows the harm that kids experience on their platform and the executives know that their measures fail to address it.”

Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they have already passed six bills unanimously that were aimed at protecting kids on social media, but none of them have been scheduled for a full vote in the Senate.

Lawmakers blamed Big Tech’s influence on Capitol Hill.

“All six passed unanimously. Every Democrat and every Republican… What has happened since? Nothing. Six bills waiting for a day on the calendar,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois). “Big Tech is the big kid on the block when it comes to this issue.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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