Network based systems

Instagram CEO faces senators angry over potential damage

WASHINGTON (AP) – Facebook’s Instagram CEO faces angry lawmakers over revelations about how popular photo-sharing platform can harm some young users and demands company to engage to make changes.

Adam Mosseri testified at a Senate hearing on Wednesday as Facebook, whose parent is now called Meta Platforms, was shocked by public and political outrage over the revelations of former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. She argued before lawmakers in the United States, Britain and Europe that Facebook’s systems amplify hatred and extremism online and that the company puts its profits above user safety. .

Haugen, a data scientist who had worked in Facebook’s civic integrity unit, backed up her claims with a huge amount of internal company documents that she secretly copied and provided to federal securities regulators. movables and in Congress.

A Senate Commerce Committee panel examined Facebook’s use of information from its own researchers that could indicate potential harm to some of its young users, especially girls, while publicly downplaying negative impacts. For some of the dedicated Instagram teens, the peer pressure generated by the visually targeted app resulted in mental health and body image issues, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts, have shown. detailed searches in Facebook documents.

The revelations in a Wall Street Journal report, based on the documents leaked by Haugen, sparked a wave of recriminations from lawmakers, Big Tech critics, child development experts and parents.

At a subcommittee hearing in September, senators from both parties united in condemning the social media giant and Instagram, the photo-sharing juggernaut valued at some $ 100 billion that Facebook acquired for $ 1 billion. dollars in 2012.

Lawmakers accused Facebook of hiding the negative results on Instagram. The panel grilled Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global security, who has championed Instagram’s efforts to protect young people using its platform. She took issue with how the Wall Street Journal described the research.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Chairman of the subcommittee, had called on Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the panel to testify about the Instagram situation. For now, it will be Mosseri who will answer these questions.

“After explosive reports of Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear directly from the company’s management why they are using powerful algorithms that push poisoned content at children leading them through rabbit holes in dark places,” and what it will do to make its platform more secure. ”Blumenthal said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Facebook’s public response in September to the outcry over Instagram was to halt work on a children’s version of the platform, which the company says is primarily aimed at children between the ages of 10 and 12.

On Tuesday, Instagram introduced a previously announced feature that urges teens to take breaks on the platform. The company also announced other tools it says aim to protect young users from harmful content.

Already in July, Facebook said it was working with parents, experts and policymakers when it introduced teen safety measures on its main Instagram platform. In fact, the company has worked with experts and other advisers for another product aimed at children – its Messenger Kids app which launched in late 2017.

Beyond the changes the company has made, senators are pressuring Mosseri to support legislative remedies for social media.

Among the legislative proposals put forward by Blumenthal and others, a bill proposes an “eraser button” that would allow parents to instantly delete all personal information collected from their children or adolescents. Another proposal prohibits features specific to children under 16, such as automatic video playback, push alerts, “like” buttons and number of followers. A ban on collecting personal data from anyone between the ages of 13 and 15 without their consent is also being launched. And a new digital “bill of rights” for minors that would similarly limit the collection of personal data from adolescents.


Follow Marcy Gordon on Twitter.

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