Social network – Instagram “can help” young people in difficulty, says its boss


The parliamentarians did not seem convinced by Adam Mosseri’s words during his hearing in the US Congress.

Adam Mosseri on December 8, 2021.

Getty Images via AFP

Instagram “can help” young people in difficulty and “work for the benefit” of teenagers, said its leader Adam Mosseri on Wednesday during his hearing before the US Congress, taking the opposite view of recent accusations against the social network, in the face of parliamentarians who said the opposite.

“Sometimes young people go on Instagram when they are going through difficult things in their lives,” said the man who has run this subsidiary of Facebook (now Meta) for three years. “I think Instagram can help a lot of them in these times.”

For two and a half hours, the former entrepreneur did not seem to give in to the pressure of the moment for a single second and reacted calmly to the senators, who nevertheless attacked him with criticism. He rolled out a list of steps Instagram is taking to make the platform more secure for younger users, while defending recently leaked internal research findings and fueling criticism of the social network.

Negative personal image

One of the surveys from 2019 showed that Instagram reflected a negative personal image for a third of girls under 20 years of age. Another, from 2020, showed that 32% of teenage girls felt that the use of the social network had worsened their body perception when they were already dissatisfied with it.

“Facebook’s own research has warned management, including you, for years about the detrimental impact of Instagram on teens’ mental health,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the subcommittee on protection, told him about consumers to whom Adam Mosseri spoke. But Facebook “continued to take advantage of this disturbing content because it meant more traffic, advertising and dollars,” the elected Democrat was indignant.

“We have the same goal,” replied Adam Mosseri, “we want young users to be safe on the Internet.” The manager has, at the request of Richard Blumenthal, committed to providing access to part of the product of his internal research. He also said he was in favor of a new regulatory framework for technology companies.

Adam Mosseri has publicly refused to withdraw from setting up an Instagram for under 13s, merely promising that the social network will not set up accounts for 10-12 year olds that can be set up without parental consent.

“A little empathy”

Buried by senators under the example of young people who are victims of what elected officials consider to be the fault of the social network, the thirty-year-old in dark suit and tie defended Instagram step by step, politely but firmly.

“We’re talking to you about young people hurting themselves, receiving information that’s ruining their lives, and we’re asking you to show some empathy,” said Marsha Blackburn, Republican leader of the subcommittee. “And it looks like you can not.”

Adam Mosseri said he was in favor of creating an organization to define best practices for the sector. But the idea did not seduce the senators, who intend to go “much further than what you have proposed,” Richard Blumenthal replied. “Self-regulation based on trust is no longer a sustainable solution. (…) The legislation is coming. ”

In mid-November, several U.S. states launched a study into whether Meta, the new name for Facebook, deliberately let children and teens use Instagram knowing that the platform could harm their mental and physical health.

“Small steps”

On the eve of the hearing, Instagram had announced a series of measures to strengthen the protection of the youngest. In particular, the application will prevent users from mentioning teenagers in their publications who do not subscribe to their profile. She had already made miner accounts private by default when they signed up.

The social network will also in March 2022 offer tools that allow parents to see how much time their children spend on the application and set boundaries. They will soon have access to an information center with guidance and expert advice.

Also new, Instagram is launching, in all major English-speaking markets, the “Take a break” option, which will suggest that users stop scrolling through content on the app for a moment. Senator Blumenthal called these measures “small steps,” “not impressive.” “Break?” said the chosen one, “this is not going to save children from the addictive effects” of Instagram.


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