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Facebook’s Instagram head gets slammed for comparing Instagram to cars


Adam Mosseri, Facebook

Beck Diefenbach | Reuters

Adam Mosseri, the head of Facebook’s Instagram service, came under a flurry of criticism on Thursday after comparing the value of social networks to society to that of cars.

“We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large, cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri said on the Recode Media podcast on Wednesday. “I think that social media is comparable.”

These comments follow a series this week of Wall Street Journal reports based upon internal Facebook data. A Tuesday report from the series revealed that Facebook has repeatedly found that its Instagram app is harmful to a number of teenagers. An internal presentation revealed that 32% of teenage girls felt worse about themselves when Instagram was used.

Following the report, U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanded answers from Facebook about how its services impact the mental health of teens and children, with some calling on the company to abandon its plans to launch a kids version of Instagram.

Peter Kafka (a podcast host) asked Mosseri whether the service should be pulled, or restricted in case it might harm individuals the way cigarettes can.

Mosseri replied, “Absolutely, not.” He also said that he didn’t like the idea of comparing Instagram to cigarettes or drugs, as they have limited upsides. Mosseri stated that any item which is used on a large scale will have both positive and negative consequences. There are positive and negative consequences to cars.

Many people on Twitter criticized Mosseri and noted that unlike social media, automobiles are heavily regulated. Brian Boland, a former Facebook executive was one of those who were criticized.

“We have also regulations and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTA) for cars. Perhaps @mosseri could be renamed Unsafe at Any Speed Boland tweeted.

Kafka asked Mosseri about regulation around cars. Mosseri said that he believed that social media regulation was necessary.

Mosseri shared his opinion on the podcast, “We believe you need to be cautious because regulation may cause more problems.” But I believe we have a significant enough industry, so it is important and necessary to keep it evolving.

Mosseri defended Twitter following the storm of criticism. He called the car analogy “less than perfect” but stated that Facebook executives believe social media is more beneficial than harmful.

“Headline culture – which yes, I know, social media has contributed to – is exhausting,” Mosseri said among his series of tweets Thursday morning.