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Texas Senator Ted Cruz sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday asking for answers from the social media giant in relation to the bombshell report last week accusing Instagram of facilitating a “vast pedophile network.”
Cruz, the ranking member on the Senate Commerce Committee, said in the letter that he intended to investigate the report and requested documentation regarding Meta’s handling of child sexual abuse material that made its way onto Instagram, which is owned by Meta.
“It is shocking and disturbing that Instagram may be actively facilitating the sexual exploitation of children. This horrifying report certainly calls into question whether platforms like Instagram should continue receiving civil liability immunity in cases where the design of their own systems proactively facilitates illegal and harmful activity,” Cruz said in a statement to The Daily Wire.
“Given this example and Meta’s past refusal to adequately answer my questions about Facebook and Instagram’s recommendation algorithms, I think it’s time for the Commerce Committee to hear directly from Mark Zuckerberg why his company’s products are allegedly enabling pedophiles,” the Texas Republican added.
The letter was written in response to a report from The Wall Street Journal alongside researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst that said that Instagram allowed and promoted accounts that openly purchased and commissioned “underage-sex content.”
Accounts on Instagram have posted “menus” that offered inappropriate content, including “imagery of the minor performing sexual acts with animals,” according to researchers from the Stanford Internet Observatory. Other “menus” reportedly offered videos of children hurting themselves or “meet-ups” with kids.
Cruz’s inquiry into Meta’s handling of abusive material is part of another investigation he launched in February to look into the treatment of conservative content by tech giants Google, Twitter, TikTok, and Meta.
“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 [facilitates] illegal and harmful activity,” Cruz wrote in the letter.
Cruz asked Meta to provide a list of sexually abusive hashtags that Meta blocked and how many times they were promoted by the network’s algorithm. He also asked how many times a user account believed to be under 18 was accessed from one of the abusive hashtags.
Additionally, the Texas Senator asked how many resources were being devoted by Meta to child safety and told the company to preserve all documentation of its communications and policies on the issue.
In response to the Journal’s report, Meta said that it was continually fighting against the proliferation of abusive material.
“Child exploitation is a horrific crime,” said Meta, the parent company of Instagram. “We’re continuously investigating ways to actively defend against this behavior.”