During an intense Senate hearing last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned away from questioning and immediately apologized directly to families harmed through social media. As the founder, CEO and very public face of Facebook and its subsidiaries, this was a timely and well-played move by Zuckerberg who was being pressed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) to address the families in attendance and do more to prevent exploitation and bullying on his platforms.
It was a break from the norm and, undoubtedly, saved Zuckerberg from a Claudine Gay/Liz Magill moment as he met Hawley’s challenge rather than deflecting. It also had us thinking about how an organization restores trust with the public after a misstep.
While this public health crisis has been an ongoing battle, the Senate hearing marked a pivotal moment for social media giants and Zuckerberg took the first step: apologizing. He did so quickly and with empathy. And while his company has had to apologize for many things over the years, his efforts to issue apologies himself have won him some points in the court of public opinion.
In the hearing, Zuckerberg addressed step two when he outlined efforts by his companies to monitor and further prevent harm. It is a huge undertaking, but Meta will need to fulfill those promises with concrete initiatives and demonstrate to the public how they continue to meet those expectations. With negative public sentiment toward social media rising, it would behoove Meta to remain committed to addressing this issue and restoring public trust.