In mid-September, the Wall Street Journal published “The Facebook Files,” a series of investigative reports that was partially based on internal documents leaked by a whistleblower. The overall impression left by the revelations is one of hypocrisy: a company saying in public how seriously they take their responsibility to protect their users from harm and police their content, but in private giving free passes for certain favoured “whitelisted” users and conducting research that reveals how harmful Instagram can be to teenagers, especially girls.
Just how harmful is it?
Time Magazine’s summary of the WSJ articles includes such tidbits as the following. Internal research presented at Facebook showed in 2019 that “Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three teen girls”. Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, “6% of American users traced the issue to the photo-sharing app”. Eating disorders and depression are also linked to Instagram use by young people, which according to the article comprise about half of Instagram’s user base. “Young” was not defined, but presumably we are talking about people in their teens and early 20s.
In a Congressional hearing held Sept. 30 in response to the revelations, Facebook’s Antigone Davis, the firm’s global head of safety, disagreed with how the WSJ characterised the company’s research. She emphasised that users benefit from Instagram, which helps them in dealing with the hard issues that beset teens. The reason for the research, she said, was “to make our platform better, to minimise the bad and maximise the good, and to proactively identify where we can improve”. But on Monday, the firm announced that it was pausing its work on a product tentatively called Instagram Kids, designed for users under 13. Of course, anybody who is old enough to type and read can say they are 13 and try to get an Instagram account today, and millions have succeeded.
Read more at Mercatornet