Durbin, Graham Lead Bipartisan Judiciary Committee Letter To Mark Zuckerberg On Child Sexual Abuse Material On Instagram

The letter follows Durbin’s op-ed in The Hill this week, highlighting the continued bipartisan efforts to stop the exploitation of kids online

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, led a bipartisan group of ten Judiciary Committee members in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO of Meta, regarding recent reporting that Instagram’s algorithm promotes and facilitates sexual interest in and activity with children, including the production and sharing of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).


The letter was also signed by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Kennedy (R-LA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).


“We are gravely concerned that Instagram’s failure to prevent this perverse use of its algorithms is not due to a lack of ability, but instead a lack of initiative and motivation,” wrote the Senators. “In other contexts, Meta has taken steps to map out user networks facilitated by its algorithm, and has even been able to suppress unlawful user content within those networks.” 


The Senators continue: “Nevertheless, the Stanford experts determined that Instagram has been ‘ineffective’ in preventing the growth of Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material (SG-CSAM) networks on its platform, largely because of a ‘general lack of resources devoted to detecting SG-CSAM and associated commercial activity.’ It is alarming that online child sexual exploitation and the proliferation of CSAM, including SGCSAM, is not among Meta’s highest priorities—especially when its platform directly facilitates and bolsters the black market for child sexual abuse material.”


The Senators concluded: “This Committee has united across the political aisle to combat the evil of online child sexual exploitation. Tech companies cannot assist malevolent actors who seek to take advantage of children. As the experts at Stanford so succinctly articulated, ‘minors do not have the ability to meaningfully consent to the implications of having widely distributed explicit material and the other harms for which it puts them at risk.’  We refuse to let those who traffic in CSAM subject children to these harms and alter the course of their lives. And we refuse to accept Meta’s facilitation of these crimes. We therefore urge Meta to join us in combatting this threat.”


Full text of the letter is available here.


The letter continues Senator Durbin and the Judiciary Committee’s efforts to stop the exploitation of children online. In February, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled, “Protecting Our Children Online,” which included powerful testimony from those working to increase children’s privacy and safety online.


Since the hearing, five bills have recently advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis as part of the Stopping the Exploitation of Kids Online legislative package.

  • Durbin’s STOP CSAM Act supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms.
  • The EARN IT Act creates targeted exceptions to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 to remove blanket immunity from civil and criminal liability under child sexual abuse material laws and establishes a National Commission on Online Child Sexual Exploitation Prevention.
  • The SHIELD Act ensures that federal prosecutors have appropriate and effective tools to address serious privacy violations.
  • The Project Safe Childhood Act modernizes the investigation and prosecution of online child exploitation crimes.
  • The REPORT Act combats the rise in online child sexual exploitation by instilling new measures to help strengthen reporting of those crimes to the CyberTipline.