WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz (R-Texas), today sent a letter to Meta Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, demanding answers about recent reporting from the Wall Street Journal describing how Instagram’s recommendation systems actively facilitated the production, purchase, and possession of child sexual abuse material.
Sen. Cruz wrote:
“Given your company’s written reassurances to me that its systems “avoid making recommendations that could be low-quality, objectionable, or particularly sensitive” or “inappropriate for younger viewers,” I was appalled by the Wall Street Journal’s recent report describing how Instagram’s recommendation systems actively facilitate the production, purchase, and possession of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). In other words, not only does this content exist on dark corners of Instagram—a finding that would be horrifying in and of itself—but Meta’s own systems play a key role in helping pedophiles find and sexually exploit children.
“It is particularly ironic that Meta has gone to extensive lengths to remove completely legitimate speech—for example, content about elections and COVID-19—from its recommendation systems yet seems unable to implement basic product interventions to prevent those same systems from harming the most vulnerable members of society. As the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee may soon move to consider children’s online safety legislation, this disturbing report further calls into question whether platforms should enjoy Section 230 immunity from civil liability in cases where the design of their own systems proactively facilities illegal and harmful activity.”
As part of his investigation, Sen. Cruz is seeking a number of pieces of information from Meta including a list of pro-pedophilia hashtags and search terms that were being recommended by Instagram’s systems, and information regarding the number of underage accounts that were accessed via these terms. The letter also requests specific information detailing resources Meta has allocated to its child safety teams over the past five years.
Earlier this year, Sen. Cruz launched an oversight investigation into Big Tech companies’ use of recommendation algorithms.
The full text of the letter is available HERE.