U.S. Senators interrogated Facebook over hiding Instagram’s effect on teen mental health
US lawmakers demanded pledges from Facebook to address escalating worries over its platforms’ impact on teens’ mental health.
U.S. senators grilled Facebook over recent leaked research that shows the Instagram platform negatively affects teenagers.
The senate hearing was planned after the Wall Street Journal published many stories earlier this month focusing on how Facebook knew Instagram caused some teen girls, in particular, to feel bad about their self-image.
The Global head of safety at Facebook, Antigone Davis, opposed the committee and WSJ’s research judgments throughout the hearing and said the company was issuing additional internal studies to be more transparent about its findings.
During the hearing, a Democrat Senator, “This research is a bombshell. It is powerful and riveting evidence that Facebook knows of the harmful effects of its app on teenagers and that it has hidden those findings.”
A Democrat from Massachusetts, Senator Edward Markey, said, “IG stands for Instagram, but it also stands for Insta-greed.”
The hearing revolved around questions including:
- What identifiable information does Facebook collect on users under the age of 13?
- To what extent does the company view young users as a growth area?
- If Facebook knew that Instagram led some children to consider suicide?
In response, Davis said that kids under 13 were not allowed to create an account on Facebook. Moreover, only 0.5 percent of teens in the company’s research linked their “suicidal ideation” to Instagram, lower than the numbers the Journal had reported.
“You have cherry-picked part of the research that you think helps your spin right now,” said Senator Ted Cruz, asking Facebook to commit to releasing its comprehensive research on the connections between Instagram and suicide in youth.
Besides, a second hearing is planned for Tuesday, which will also feature a Facebook whistleblower.
It is assumed that the whistleblower is a former female Facebook employee who left with tens of thousands of research pages. However, the informer is expected to reveal their identity on Sunday in a recorded interview for the TV news program “60 Minutes.”
The highly popular visual social platform does not allow people under 13 to create accounts, but this isn’t easy to enforce.
Facebook has owned Instagram since 2012, and it is valued at around $100 billion.
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