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Lawmakers give Facebook a clear message: Don’t build Instagram kids


Senator Richard Blumenthal, D.CT, poses questions at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law hearing, held in Washington DC, April 27, 20,21.

Tasos Katopodis | Pool | Reuters

WASHINGTON — Facebook’sThe testimony of members from the U.S. Senate led to a unanimous conclusion by the legislators present: Instagram doesn’t have any business making an app that is only for children.

Facebook internal research based on documents that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal, and eventually made public by the company. senators sharpenedThey expressed concern over the effects on youth that it had on their previous criticisms.

The Journal described Facebook’s plans to create an Instagram service that is accessible only to children under 13. One of the storiesA slide deck that was created by an employee of the company in 2019 stated that Instagram has worsened the body issues of one third teenage girls.

While Facebook has claimed that the Instagram app is safer for kids than its flagship product and has repeated this claim, lawmakers expressed deep doubts to Antigone Davies, Facebook’s global head safety.

D-Conn. Senator Richard Blumenthal told reporters that while Facebook stated it would suspend its plans prior to the hearing, “they should promise to end all future ones.”

Blumenthal stated that “if we’re dealing Facebook’s actual world, where there are safeguards more illusory and real than real,” then Instagram should not be allowed for children. It would make sense to me to reconsider if they truly care about children’s safety. Instagram is clearly more like Instagram for children.

Facebook releases an annotated versionA portion of the slide deck from Instagram that was shown the night before. The company wrote that its earlier phrasing of the research figure “may be sensationalizing the negative impact on the graph,” and even “ignores potentially positive interpretations — for example, more than half of respondents self-report that Instagram makes their feelings of loneliness better.”

Davis tried to contextualize, reframe and redefine the Journal’s report. But senators reminded Davis that her data was taken from Facebook’s studies. She was also provided with quotations from internal documents that they claimed were given by the whistleblower.

Davis claimed that Davis’ research wasn’t a surprise. The lawmakers disagreed strongly.

It is “a shock in the lives of parents who are losing their children,” he said. Sen. Ted CruzR-Texas. The Journal’s internal research showed that 6 percent of American teenagers who had suicidal thoughts reported them to Instagram.

Blumenthal said during the hearing, “This research was a bombshell.” It’s powerful, compelling and riveting evidence Facebook is aware of the detrimental effects of its site for children. However, it continues to conceal these facts and findings.

It is possible to see by believing

After the Journal’s series, Facebook stated that it cherry-picked data and did not provide critical context. Facebook responded to a request to comment on Thursday by pointing to two earlierBlog postings about the Journal report.

Blumenthal claimed that the staff carried out its own experiment. The profile was created by a 13 year-old girl, and accounts were followed for “extreme eating and eating disorders.” According to Blumenthal, the recommendations of his staff were filled only with accounts that encourage self-injury or eating disorders “within one day.”

The hearing room is not accessible from the outside. Sen. Amy KlobucharD-Minn., said to reporters that Davis’ response had disappointed her.

“Anyone that’s studied Facebook and really looked at the profit model, how the company started, how it makes money … it’s all based on using data from their users,” Klobuchar said. It’s all profit models, it’s just a game. Profit game.

Klobuchar stated that she would like to see written Facebook responses about how Facebook treats younger users in comparison to the other demographics.

Blumenthal spoke to CNBC later in the day on Thursday about how the whistleblower’s revelations reminded him of the events that took place decades before with the tobacco company.

Blumenthal added that the analogy to Big Tobacco speaks volumes because we thought that Big Tobacco knew they were causing harm when we sued them.” Blumenthal continued his commentary from his opening statement. Their own records showed that they were aware of it. They had actually done research that proved it. This analogy makes perfect sense.”

He said that tobacco and tech both “incorporate addiction into their business models” and tried to lure children to their products in order to “replenish the customer base.”

The same was said by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

Markey stated that Instagram was the first child cigarette designed to lure teens into smoking early. This exploits peer pressure and eventually puts their health at risk.

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