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Facebook Knows Instagram can be Harmful to Teens, But Does Too Little, US Senators Say

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The technology company Facebook, which also owns Instagram, was questioned yesterday in the US Senate about how it will better protect young teens from the dangers of Instagram. Facebook came under fire a few weeks ago after articles in the Wall Street Journal.

 

It showed that Facebook has been studying the harmful effects of Instagram on teenagers for two years now.

The ball started rolling two weeks ago. The Wall Street Journal published some articles with quotes from Facebook’s internal studies on Instagram. It showed that two years ago, Facebook was already aware of the harmful effects of Instagram on young teenagers.

For example, Facebook would know that Instagram affects teenagers’ self-image because they compare themselves with the idealized image that others display of themselves on the app. Likewise, teens struggling with their mental health would say Instagram makes it worse.

Facebook responded that the Wall Street Journal had selected citations from the studies that did not fully reflect what was studied. The company initially refused to release the studies, but they did so on Wednesday under pressure from media and politicians. Yesterday, Facebook had to explain the studies in the US Senate.

Senator Richard Blumenthal says the studies are a bomb. “It’s powerful, compelling, compelling evidence that Facebook knows the harmful effects of its sites on children and has tried to hide those facts and findings.”

One of the studies states that one in five teens say Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves. According to the senators, there are also suggestions to make Instagram better, such as giving teens more control over what they see in their feed, but Facebook has done little about that.

“IG stands for Instagram, but also Insta-greed,” said Senator Edward Markey. The senators questioned Antigone Davis, Facebook’s chief of security, about some thorny issues, such as what Facebook collects from users under 13. There was also criticism about how Facebook sees young users as an opportunity to grow the business. It was also asked if the company knows that Instagram leads to suicide in some cases among teens.

Davis responded that children under 13 are not allowed on Facebook social media and that only 0.5 percent of teens link their suicidal thoughts to Instagram. Facebook had plans to launch an Instagram for children, but it has since put the company on hold. A whistleblower will also testify in the Senate next Tuesday. It would be a former Facebook employee who took thousands of pages of research when he or she left.

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