WASHINGTON — Political adversaries in Congress are united in outrage against Facebook for privately compiling information that its Instagram photo-sharing service appears to grievously harm some teens, especially girls, while publicly downplaying the popular platform’s negative impact, AP reported.
Mounting public pressure over the revelations have prompted Facebook to put on hold its work on a kids’ version of Instagram, which the company says is meant mainly for teens aged 10 to 12. But it’s just a pause.
For some of the Instagram-devoted teens, the peer pressure generated by the visually focused app 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 the social network giant’s executives to Instagram’s destructive potential.
Those revelations in a report by The Wall Street Journal, based on internal research leaked by a whistleblower at Facebook, have set off a wave of anger from lawmakers, critics of Big Tech, child-development experts and parents.
Facebook’s head of global safety, Antigone Davis, has been summoned to testify Thursday by a Senate Commerce Committee panel digging into Instagram’s impact on young users.
She’s expected to tell the lawmakers that Facebook works to prevent children under 13 from gaining access to platforms that aren’t suitable for them. The company is developing features to protect young people on its platforms, using research and consultations with outside experts to make the users’ experience positive, Davis is set to testify.
She says Facebook has a history of using its internal research as well as outside experts and groups to inform changes to its apps. The goal is to keep young people safe on the platforms and ensure that those who aren’t old enough to use them do not.
The committee’s chairman, 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 leading liberal, a former federal prosecutor who has pursued powerful industries over consumer protection issues and stressed civil rights. Blackburn, a solid ally of former president Donald Trump, is an outspoken conservative and abortion foe who has repeatedly accused Facebook, Google and Twitter of censoring those viewpoints.
The Instagram revelations have brought them together to call Facebook to account.