Facebook Exec Defends Policies Toward Teens on Instagram

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Facing lawmakers’ outrage against Facebook over its handling of internal research on harm to teens from Instagram, a Facebook executive is telling Congress that the company is working to protect young people on its platforms.

And she disputes the way a recent newspaper story describes what the research shows.

Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety, was testifying for a Senate Commerce subcommittee Thursday.

Facebook has removed more than 600,000 accounts on Instagram from June to August this year that didn’t meet the minimum age requirement of 13, Davis said.

Davis was summoned by the panel as public pressure builds against Facebook for privately compiling information that its Instagram photo-sharing service appears to grievously harm some teens, especially girls, while publicly downplaying the popular platform’s negative impact.

The revelations in a report by The Wall Street Journal, based on internal research leaked by a whistleblower at Facebook, have set off a wave of anger from lawmakers, critics of Big Tech, child-development experts, and parents. The outcry prompted Facebook to put on hold its work on a kids’ version of Instagram, which the company says is meant mainly for tweens aged 10 to 12. But it’s just a pause.

For some of the Instagram-devoted teens, the peer pressure generated by the visually focused app led to mental-health and body-image problems, and in some cases, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. It was Facebook’s own researchers who alerted the social network giant’s executives to Instagram’s destructive potential.

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