Senator says Facebook will ‘haunt a generation’ and blasts Mark Zuckerberg for going sailing during whistleblower hearing

(Collage): Mark Zuckerberg stands in profile outdoors, Senator Richard Blumenthal holds his hands palms down while pointing his fingers forward at a Senate hearing dais.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images; Ken Cedeno-Pool/Getty Images
  • Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday.
  • Blumenthal said Facebook’s inaction on Instagram’s effect on teens will “haunt a generation.”
  • “Zuckerberg’s new policy is no apologies, no admissions, no acknowledgement,” he said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In Thursday’s Facebook whistleblower hearing, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut took umbrage with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his handling of recently leaked internal reports on Instagram’s negative effect on teenage girls.

The 75-year-old senator was particularly irked over Zuckerberg posting a video of he and his wife sailing – taken with the company’s new Ray-Ban smart glasses – as the company faces mounting crises.

“The damage to self-worth inflicted by Facebook today will haunt a generation,” Blumenthal said in his opening statement.

“But Mark Zuckerberg’s new policy is no apologies, no admissions, no acknowledgement,” the senator said later on in his exchange with whistleblower Frances Haugen. “Nothing to see here. We’re gonna deflect it, and go sailing.”

Set to the iconic song “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, Zuckerberg posted the wistful montage just a few hours before a “60 Minutes” segment featuring Haugen detao;ed internal data showing the company knew Instagram was changing many of its teen users’ behavior and contributing to a rise in self-harm and suicide attempts among teenage girls.

In both her Senate testimony on Tuesday and in her “60 Minutes” interview, Haugen said she came forward to send internal documents to Congress as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission because Facebook was negligent in keeping the severity of the problem from the public.

“Mark Zuckerberg, you need to explain to the world what you are doing and why you did it,” Blumenthal said.

Facebook issued a statement to “60 Minutes” on Haugen’s revelations defending itself against the mounting scrutiny from the public and lawmakers.

“If any research had identified an exact solution to these complex challenges, the tech industry, governments, and society would have solved them a long time ago,” Lena Pietsch, Facebook’s director of policy communications, said. “We have a strong track record of using our research – as well as external research and close collaboration with experts and organizations – to inform changes to our apps.”

Haugen also addressed several other issues at Facebook in key moments, including their struggles with hiring, Zuckerberg’s outsize role in the company compared to the rest of Silicon Valley, and Monday’s hours-long outage.