On Thursday, Senators were seen firing a barrage of criticism at a Facebook executive for poor handling of internal research on how Instagram can affect teenagers’ mental health, according to the Associated Press.
The senators accused Facebook of hiding the negative findings of Instagram, demanding a commitment from the social networking company to make changes.
However, Antigone Davis, Director, Global Head of Safety at Facebook, defended Instagram’s efforts to safeguard young people who are using its app.
She said, “We care deeply about the safety and security of the people on our platform. We take the issue very seriously. … We have put in place multiple protections to create safe and age-appropriate experiences for people between the ages of 13 and 17.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal was not convinced with what Davis said. He told Davis, “I don’t understand how you can deny that Instagram is exploiting young users for its own profit.”
Research has shown that some Instagram-devoted teens developed mental health issues and body image problems, while some of them developed eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. The research was reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Sen. Edward Markey said, “Instagram is that first childhood cigarette meant to get teens hooked early. Facebook is just like Big Tobacco, pushing a product they know is harmful to the health of young people.”
In July, Facebook said it was working with parents, experts, and policymakers when it introduced safety measures for teens on its main Instagram platform, according to the Associated Press. The social media giant has been working with experts for another product aimed at children called Messenger Kids app that launched in 2017.
Davis did not say how long the pause would last. She said, “I don’t have a specific date but I do have a commitment” that Facebook executives will consult with parents, policymakers, and experts. “We want to get this right,” she added.
She insisted that the research on Instagram’s negative impact on young people “is not a bombshell.”
Blumenthal argued, “This research is a bombshell. It is powerful, gripping, riveting evidence that Facebook knows of the harmful effects of its site on children, and that it has concealed those facts and findings.”