Senate to grill tech executives after Instagram report, adolescent mental health


A Senate panel plans to bring tech executives back to Capitol Hill following a revealing Wall Street Journal report on the impact of Facebook’s Instagram platform on adolescent mental health.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., A leading member of the Senate Trade Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, announced the hearing in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell.” Blackburn said the hearing would take place in a few weeks and would include representatives from Google-owned Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snap and YouTube.

A spokesperson for Blackburn said a hearing date and the specific participants of the companies have yet to be confirmed.

The Journal’s report, which the outlet said was based on internal Facebook documents, found the company was aware of the significant negative impacts of its Instagram photo-sharing app on teenage girls. At a hearing in March, CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in response to a question about children and mental health, which research he has seen shows “using social apps to connect with d ‘other people may have positive mental health benefits.

While the research cited in the Journal report did not show entirely negative effects, it appeared to go against Facebook’s mental health narrative. It angered several lawmakers from all parties and chambers of Congress, some of whom have called on Facebook to abandon its plan to create an Instagram product focused on children.

“What we do know is a lot of this anecdotal information we received from parents, teachers, pediatricians about the harms of social media to children that Facebook was aware of,” Blackburn said. “They chose not to make this public.”

Blackburn said his staff met with a whistleblower who worked for Facebook on Friday who had access to the documents the Journal reported on.

Although the House and Senate have flown tech CEOs to Congress several times over the past two years, Blackburn said she expects this hearing to stand out because of its bipartisan nature. She said she was working with subcommittee chair Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., On the effort and the two will review the rules for how social media can market to children, as well as laws designed to protect them online. , such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA).

Representatives for Blumenthal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are determined to do something in a bipartisan way that will protect our children in the virtual space, which will allow them to be able to use the Internet, zoom school if they need to, do research, but be protected and to have their privacy protected when online, ”said Blackburn.

A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on Blackburn’s remarks and pointed to an earlier blog post in response to the Journal’s information.

“We are exploring ways to encourage [users] look at different topics if they repeatedly view this type of content, ”Karina Newton, Instagram’s public policy manager, wrote in the blog post. and uplifts them, and to a greater extent, will change the part of Instagram culture that focuses on how people look. “

Spokesmen for Twitter and Snap declined to comment on the hearing. Representatives for the other companies that Blackburn said were invited did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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