Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has slammed Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta Platforms Inc, for denying the link between social media and mental health issues among young people. Durbin compared Zuckerberg to the tobacco executives who testified in 1994 that nicotine was not addictive and their products were not harmful. Durbin said that Zuckerberg’s statement was “outrageous” and that he should never have said anything like that.
Zuckerberg made the controversial statement during a hearing on Wednesday, where he and other social media executives were questioned by senators about their policies to protect children from sexual exploitation and harmful content online. Zuckerberg said that “mental health is a complex issue and the existing body of scientific work has not shown a causal link between using social media and young people having worse mental health outcomes.” He also said that Meta was investing in research and tools to help young people use social media in positive ways.
Zuckerberg’s statement came after a series of revelations by a whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who leaked internal documents that showed that Meta knew that its platforms, especially Instagram, had negative effects on the mental health and body image of young users, especially girls. Haugen testified before Congress in October 2023, and said that Meta prioritized profits over safety, and that it needed more regulation and oversight.
Durbin Compares Zuckerberg to Tobacco Execs
Durbin, who presided over the hearing, was not convinced by Zuckerberg’s statement, and compared him to the tobacco executives who lied to Congress about the addictive and harmful nature of their products. Durbin said that Zuckerberg’s statement was “outrageous” and that he should never have said anything like that. Durbin also said that Meta was facing a “national youth mental health crisis” and that it was an “important driver” of that crisis.
Durbin was not the only senator who criticized Zuckerberg and Meta. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said that Meta’s platforms “really suck at policing themselves” and that they needed more accountability and transparency. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Meta was “too big to manage” and that it needed to be broken up. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that Meta was “morally bankrupt” and that it had “betrayed” the trust of its users.
Meta Reports Strong Earnings and Announces Stock Split
Despite the intense scrutiny and criticism, Meta reported strong earnings and announced a stock split on Thursday. Meta reported a 17% increase in revenue to $40.11 billion, and a 20% increase in net income to $9.2 billion, for the fourth quarter of 2023. Both figures beat the analysts’ estimates of $39.17 billion and $8.6 billion, respectively. Meta also announced its first-ever quarterly dividend of 50 cents per share, and a 10-for-1 stock split, which will take effect on February 14.
Meta’s earnings were driven by a 13% increase in its daily active users to 2.1 billion, and a 12% increase in its average revenue per user to $16.49. Meta also saw a strong growth in its other businesses, such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, Oculus, and Workplace. Meta’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said that the company’s name change reflected its vision to build the metaverse, a virtual reality platform that connects people, places, and things.
Meta’s stock soared 18% in after-hours trading, reaching a record high of $1,200 per share. Meta’s market capitalization rose to $3.4 trillion, making it the most valuable company in the world.
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