Political opponents in Congress are united in an outcry against Facebook for privately compiling information that its Instagram photo-sharing service seriously harms some teens, especially girls, while publicly accusing the popular platform of negative effects. reduces.
Growing public pressure over the revelations has prompted Facebook to halt its work on a children’s version of Instagram, which the company says is primarily aimed at tweens ages 10 to 12. But this is just a pause.
For some Instagram-dedicated teens, the peer pressure generated by the visually-focused app has led to mental-health and body-image problems, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. It was Facebook’s own researchers who alerted executives of the social network giant to Instagram’s devastating potential.
Those revelations, in a report in The Wall Street Journal based on internal research leaked by a whistleblower on Facebook, have sparked a wave of anger from lawmakers, critics of Big Tech, child-development experts and parents.
Facebook’s Granthshala security chief, Antigone Davis, has been called Thursday to testify by a Senate Commerce Committee panel investigating Instagram’s impact on young users.
He is expected to tell lawmakers that Facebook works to prevent children under the age of 13 from accessing platforms that are not suitable for them. The company is developing features to protect youth on its platforms using research and consultation with outside experts to make the user experience positive, Davis is ready to testify.
She says Facebook has a history of using its internal research as well as external experts and groups to inform changes to its apps. The goal is to keep young people safe on the platform and ensure that those who aren’t old enough to use them don’t.
The committee chair, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and its senior Republican, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, sit on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Blumenthal is a prominent liberal, a former federal prosecutor who has pursued powerful industries on consumer protection issues and emphasized civil rights. Blackburn, a solid ally of former President Donald Trump, is an outspoken conservative and anti-abortion foe, who has repeatedly accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of censoring those viewpoints.
The Instagram revelations have brought them together to call Facebook the account.
Blumenthal said in a statement, “This hearing will examine the toxic effects of Facebook and Instagram on young people and others, and is one of many that will ask tough questions about whether Big Tech companies are intentionally harming people.” and hiding that knowledge.” “The revelations about Facebook and others have raised deeper questions about what can and should be done to protect people.”
Blumenthal and Blackburn plan to take testimony next week from a Facebook whistleblower, possibly the man who leaked Instagram research documents to the journal.
A preview of the grilling Davis faces came last week, when, in a separate Senate hearing, Blumenthal told another Facebook executive about the Instagram research, “You’ve been sent here for an indefinite defense.”
“Accountability is coming,” Blumenthal said. “And it will be bipartisan.”
Facebook has criticized the journal’s story as cherry-picking from its research, although it has not disputed the documents’ authenticity.
Despite the well-documented pitfalls, Facebook executives have consistently downplayed the downside of Instagram and went so far as to work on Instagram for Kids. On Monday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a blog post that the company would use its time “to work with parents, experts and policy makers to demonstrate the value and need for this product.”
Already in July, Facebook said it was working with parents, experts and policy makers to introduce safety measures for teens on its main Instagram platform. In fact, the company is working with experts and other consultants for another product for kids, its Messenger Kids app, which launched in late 2017.
The concentrated outrage extends beyond party and ideology, in contrast to lawmakers’ stances toward social media in general, which divide Republicans and Democrats. Republicans accuse Facebook, Google and Twitter of deliberately suppressing conservative, religious and anti-abortion views without evidence.
Democrats primarily train their criticism on hate speech, misinformation and other material that can incite violence, prevent people from voting or spread lies about the coronavirus.
Bipartisan stacks against Facebook as the tech giant awaits a federal judge’s decision on a revised complaint from the Federal Trade Commission in an epic antitrust case and as it grapples with the Biden administration over its handling of coronavirus vaccine misinformation .
Meanwhile, unprecedented legislation has moved forward in Congress that would curb the market power of Facebook and other tech giants Google, Amazon and Apple _ and could force them to separate their major platforms from their other lines of business. For Facebook, which may target Instagram, the social media juggernaut is valued at around $100 billion, which it has owned since 2012, as well as messaging service WhatsApp.