Meta Covets Kiddie Instagrams

January 5, 2022

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri’s recent testimony before Congress shows Facebook continues to deny truths revealed by whistleblower Frances Haugen: The company’s own research demonstrates Instagram is harmful to children and teens. Vox Recode reports that “Facebook Still Won’t Give Up Instagram for Kids.” Mosseri was asked whether the company would permanently halt development of Instagram for Kids, a platform intended for children ages 10–12. All the CEO would commit to was that if such a project were launched it would require parental permission. So that is a long-winded no. Writer Shirin Ghaffary observes:

“The exchange reveals a deeper takeaway from the hearing: Instagram — and its parent company Meta (formerly Facebook) — do not seem to believe their product is harmful enough to children and teens that it needs radical change. That’s in spite of internal company research leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, which showed that one in three teenage girls who felt bad about their bodies said Instagram made them feel worse. The research also showed that 13 percent of British teenage users and 6 percent of American teenage users who had suicidal thoughts traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram. … [Mosseri’s] answers seemed to do little to reassure the remarkably bipartisan group of US lawmakers at the hearing, who say they believe Instagram is damaging teenagers’ mental health. These lawmakers say they are committed to passing legislation that could force Facebook and other tech companies to change their businesses to better protect children.”

But are they really? We also learn:

“Right now, there are several bills out to create stronger privacy laws, to establish penalties for Facebook if it allows damaging content to surface, and to mandate that Facebook must share more data with outside researchers to assess the harms of its products. So far, none of these bills have passed or are even close to passing.”

It sounds like Meta intends to ride out the wave of outrage until something displaces it in the public’s awareness, as is bound to occur, then reintroduce its platform for tweens. Perhaps it will give the product a different name. Certainly it will continue to spin social media as a net good for children, as Mosseri did at that hearing. Given both the public’s limited attention span and Congress’ tortoise-like speed, it seems like a solid plan.

Cynthia Murrell, January 5, 2022


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