Senators grilled a Facebook executive on Capitol Hill Thursday over accusations it has known for years that Instagram causes mental and emotional harm to teenagers.
Members of the Senate’s consumer protection subcommittee summoned Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, Thursday as scrutiny intensified following a report in The Wall Street Journal citing the company’s internal research that 1 in 3 teenagers said Instagram made their body image issues worse.
The revelations prompted some lawmakers to renewed a call for tougher laws to protect children online.
“It is powerful, gripping riveting evidence that Facebook knows the harmful effects of its site on children, and that it has concealed those facts and findings,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., chairman of the subcommittee.
Facebook released the research to the public on the eve of the Senate hearing.
Davis told lawmakers that Facebook put in “multiple protections to create safe and age-appropriate experiences for people between the ages of 13 and 17.”
Facebook taps internal research and outside experts to make changes to its apps, with the goal of keeping young people safe on its platforms and ensuring that those who aren’t old enough to use them do not, according to Davis.
Facebook has removed more than 600,000 accounts on Instagram from June to August this year that didn’t meet the minimum age requirement of 13, she said.
“That’s why we conduct this research, to make our platform better, to minimize the bad, and maximize the good, and to proactively identify where we can improve,” she told lawmakers.
Senators asked Facebook to release all of its research. Davis said Facebook is “looking for ways to release more research,” but added, “there are privacy considerations.”
Comparisons to the tobacco industry’s coverups of cigarettes’ harmful effects abounded in a session that united senators of both parties.
“I don’t understand how you can deny that Instagram is exploiting young users for its own profit,” Blumenthal told Davis.
Blumenthal and Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the panel’s senior Republican, will hear testimony next week from a Facebook whistleblower, who is believed to be the one who leaked the internal research to The Wall Street Journal.
Amid public outcry over the research’s findings, Facebook has put on hold its kids’ version of Instagram which was mostly geared to children aged 10 to 12.
Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said in a blog post-Monday that the company will use its time out “to work with parents, experts, and policymakers to demonstrate the value and need for this product.”News Source: USA