Facebook has defended its products’ impact, claiming that Instagram has “certainly aided” young people.
Antigone Davis, the company’s worldwide head of safety, spoke before the US Senate regarding child protection.
It comes after a leak revealed that Instagram’s own study showed that the app was harmful to children’s health.
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri has stated that the app’s impact on teens’ mental health is “very modest.”
The committee began by reaffirming Facebook’s own study, which indicated Instagram might have a detrimental influence on body image and self-esteem, as originally published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
It said that “teenagers blame Instagram for rising rates of anxiety and despair.”
“We do this research to make our platform better, to minimize the bad and maximize the positive, and to proactively identify where we can improve,” Ms Davis told the committee.
“We want our platforms to be a place where people can have meaningful relationships with friends and family, and we can’t do that if people don’t feel secure,” says the company.
No Real Defense In Sight
However, Senator Richard Blumenthal, who leads the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety, and data security, pointed out that Facebook had denied any knowledge of a negative link in August.
“We know it prioritizes the expansion of its goods over our children’s well-being,” he added.
“And we now know that intervening to defend them is indefensibly delinquent.”
“It is failing to hold itself accountable, and I’m left wondering how we, parents, or anybody else can trust Facebook.”
Ms Davis repeatedly refused to address the committee’s queries during the hearing, stating that she would have to verify with the appropriate Facebook teams.
Affects On Self Image
The WSJ’s reporting is disputed by Facebook.
“It is just not true to say that our research proves Instagram is ‘toxic’ for young girls,” wrote Pratiti Raychoudhury, the head of research.
“The study revealed that many of the kids we spoke with believe that using Instagram helps them deal with the types of difficult situations and challenges that teenagers have always encountered.”
“One exception was body image,” Facebook revealed in slides released to demonstrate its findings.
One in three adolescent females who had previously struggled with body image issues said that using Instagram on Facebook made them feel even worse.
According to the presentations, filtered photos, uploading selfies, and reading material with hashtags all have an impact on happiness.
Hearing On The Horizon
It comes just days after the firm postponed the debut of Instagram Kids, which was supposed to go live this year for users under the age of 13.
Ms Davis told the committee, “As any parent knows, when it comes to youngsters and tweens, they’re already online.”
“Rather than having tweens lie about their age to get access to a platform that wasn’t meant for them, we feel it is preferable for parents to have the choice of giving them access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them, where parents can monitor and regulate their experience.”
Instagram is also exploring a feature called Take a Break, according to Ms Davis, that “would urge someone to take a break” from their device.
This would appear “when we believe [users] are rabbiting down particular types of material or have spent too much time on the app.”
The whistleblower who released the papers to the Wall Street Journal will speak in a separate hearing next week, and the committee has stated it will seek interviews from other social media firms about the mental health risks that youngsters face.