MPs did not seem convinced, given Adam Mosseri’s words during his US Congress hearing.
Adam Mosseri on December 8, 2021.
Getty Images via AFP
Instagram “can help young people in need,” said its boss Adam Mosseri on Wednesday during his hearing in the US Congress and took on the opposite of the recent allegations against the social network, which parliamentarians were not convinced.
“Sometimes young people go to Instagram when they are going through difficult things in their lives,” says the man who has run this daughter of Facebook (now Meta) for three years. “I think Instagram can help a lot of them in these times.”
As a prelude to this highly anticipated hearing, Adam Mosseri listed a number of measures Instagram was taking to make the platform safer for young users, while defending the results of internal research that recently leaked and criticism of the social network were stoked. One of the 2019 studies found that Instagram reflects a negative personal image for a third of girls under 20. Another from 2020 showed that 32% of teenage girls felt that using the social network had made their body image worse, even though they were already dissatisfied with it.
“Facebook’s own research has drawn management, including you, on the harmful effects of Instagram on adolescent mental health for years,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee, before which Adam Mosseri speaks. However, Facebook “continued to take advantage of this worrying content because it meant more traffic, advertising and money,” said the Democrat-elected.
“We have the same goal”
“We have the same goal,” replied Adam Mosseri, “we want young users to be safe on the Internet”. At Richard Blumenthal’s request, the manager has undertaken to make part of the product available to his internal research. He refused to publicly forego setting up an Instagram for under 13s, merely promising that the social network would not create accounts for 10-12 year olds that can be created without parental consent.
“I’m frustrated because this is the fourth time in two years we’ve spoken to someone on Meta (new name for Facebook) and I feel like the conversation goes on forever,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn, chairwoman of the Republicans on the subcommittee.
“My discussions with parents strongly encourage me to fight for reforms and demand the answers that the whole country expects,” said Senator Blumenthal on Tuesday. In mid-November, several US states launched an investigation into whether Meta was deliberately letting children and teenagers use Instagram, knowing that the platform could harm their mental and physical health.
On the eve of the hearing, Instagram announced a series of measures aimed at strengthening youth protection. In particular, the application prevents users from mentioning teenagers in their posts who have not subscribed to their profile. She had already reported private minors by default when registering.
The social network will also offer tools in March 2022 that parents can use to see how much time their children are spending on the application and set limits. An information center with tutorials and expert advice will soon be available to them. Another new feature is that Instagram is introducing the “Take a break” option in all major English-speaking markets, which indicates that users will no longer scroll through the app for a while.
Adam Mosseri also announced the appearance of a new section within the application in January that would allow teenagers to review all of their Instagram activity, from content posted to comments, including “likes” to allow them to ” easier to manage their digital footprint “.
These announcements were received with suspicion and even hostility by US Senators. Senator Blackburn accused Instagram of “creating a distraction” shortly before the hearing.
Stephen Balkam, President of the Family Online Safety Institute, an association protecting families who use the Internet, greeted him with an “encouraging” sign. “This is the latest in a long line of improvements Instagram has made over the past two or three years.” “Instagram is safer than it used to be,” he continued, “less toxic to teenagers. But it will never be perfect, never entirely certain. But it applies to all social networks. “