US lawmakers have lambasted Facebook over reports that the social media giant’s own research warned of the harm Instagram can do to teenage girls’ well-being. Senators grilled the social media giant’s Antigone Davis in an hours-long Capitol Hill hearing THursday and demanded pledges from Facebook to address escalating worries over its platforms’ impact on teens’ mental health.
“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,” Senator Richard Blumenthal said.
Amid widesperad criticism, Facebook shelved its plan to develop Instagram Kids, saying it wanted “time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators to listen to their concerns.
Facebook witness Antigone Davis, head of global safety at the company, had a hard time playing defence. Davis insisted that the research on Instagram’s impact on young people “is not a bombshella because it does not prove causality.
Bombshell revelations in September first reported by The Wall Street Journal have set off alarm bells yet again around Facebook’s hold over young audiences. The newspaper reported that for the last three years, Facebook has been studying how its photo-sharing app affects millions of young people on its platform,
Davis repeatedly said a Wall Street Journal series had selectively chosen parts of its research to give an inaccurately dark vision of the company’s work.
She told lawmakers that a survey of teens on 12 serious issues like anxiety, sadness and eating disorders, showed that Instagram was generally helpful to them.
“On 11 of the 12 issues, teen girls who said they struggled with those issues were more likely to say that Instagram was affirmatively helping them, not making it worse,” said Davis, who delivered her testimony remotely.
Senator Ed Markey: “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.”
Senator Marsha Blackburn: “You’ve lost the trust, and we do not trust you with influencing our children. They (parents) also don’t want Facebook collecting data on their children because – call them whatever you want, tweens, teens, young adults -A the bottom line is these are children. Their children, and you and Mr. Zuckerberg, both of you being parents should understand that Facebook has both a legal and a moral obligation to forgo collecting and using children’s data.”