Facebook was heavily criticized by members of Congress during a hearing on Thursday over how the social network giant handled internal research related to its Instagram platform and how it could be harmful to the mental health of teens.
Facebook’s global security chief Antigone Davis was grilled for more than three hours by lawmakers who accused Facebook – which owns Instagram – of showing that the Instagram app is harmful to a significant number of teenage girls .
The hearing was convened by the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Protection after a whistleblower of the company disclosed to the Wall Street Journal about internal documents regarding Facebook’s findings.
The documents revealed that Facebook found that Instagram makes body image issues worse for a large number of teenage girls and is blamed by teens for an increase in anxiety and depression. In some cases, the app led to body image problems such as eating disorders, as well as suicidal thoughts, as the research showed.
During Thursday’s hearing, lawmakers scrutinized Facebook for its lack of transparency, accusing it of covering up the data and seeking to make changes to it, even as the tobacco industry is exposed to the harmful effects of cigarettes. Compare coverups as well.
“We are here today because Facebook has shown us once again that it is incapable of holding itself accountable,” committee chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) said in his inaugural address. “This month, a whistleblower contacted my office to provide information about Facebook and Instagram. Thanks to documents provided by that whistleblower, as well as extensive public reporting by The Wall Street Journal and others, we now have deep insight into Facebook’s relentless campaign to recruit and exploit young users. “
“We now know that Facebook routinely puts profits before children’s online safety,” he said. “We know that it chooses the development of its products over the well-being of our children, and we now know that it is defiantly criminal in acting to protect them.”
Davis denies Blumenthal’s claims, defending Instagram’s efforts to protect youth using its platform, and condemning the way the research is portrayed in news outlets.
She also acknowledged that questions have been raised about the company’s internal research, noting that it was conducted to “better understand young people’s experiences on Instagram”.
“We strongly disagree about how this reporting characterizes our work, so we want to be clear about what the research shows and what doesn’t,” Davis said in written testimony. “We did this work to inform internal conversations about teens’ most negative perceptions of Instagram,” he said. “It does not measure the causal relationship between Instagram and real-world issues.”
“We care deeply about the safety and security of the people on our platform,” Davis said. “We take this issue very seriously. … We have put in place a number of security measures to create a safe and age-appropriate experience for people aged 13 to 17.”
Amid increasing scrutiny, Instagram has halted its plans to build an Instagram product for children under the age of 13 after some 44 state attorney generals from both major parties urged it to scrap the plans, including The latest internal findings take into account the impact of Instagram on the mental health of adolescents.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri wrote in a September 27 blog post that the company still believes creating versions for children is “the right thing to do”, but that it’s “work to do” in consultation with parents, experts and policy makers. stopping”.
“This break will give us time to work with parents, experts, policy makers and regulators, listen to their concerns, and demonstrate the value and importance of this project to today’s young teens,” Mosseri wrote.
Zachary Steber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This News Originally From – The Epoch Times