Before the Senate Commerce subcommittee, Antigone Davis, head of global safety of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), was given a clear message: the internet giant should not launch Instagram for kids. During the questioning session, lawmakers supported their claim on the company’s own leaked documents.
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The charge was led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, who has been very critical of Facebook’s attempt to launch Instagram for minors, who also said that despite the company has paused its plans, “they should commit to a permanent end.”
The questioning stemmed from The Wall Street Journal’s series of reports on how the company has been ignoring Instagram’s impact on female teenagers, despite the evidence found in research done by Facebook itself.
The internet firm established that 32% of girls using the app felt bad about their appearance, due to the content.
After The WSJ’s reports, Facebook put its “Instagram for kids” on hold. During the session, Sen. Blumenthal said “If we’re dealing with Facebook’s real world where the safeguards are more illusory than real, there should be no Instagram for kids, period.”
He was quoted as saying on CNBC: “If they were really committed to kids’ safety, if there were real-world evidence of it, I might think differently about it. But Instagram for kids is plainly just more of the same.”
Facebook presented an annotated slide containing the company’s research data, and claimed that the phrasing of the figures “may be sensationalizing the negative impact on the graph,” and also “ignores potentially positive interpretations —for example, more than half of respondents self-report that Instagram makes their feelings of loneliness better.”
Antigone Davis attempted to reframe the data presented by The WSJ, but senators emphasized that it had come out of Facebook’s own research. They also showed Davis quotes from other research documents that a whistleblower gave to them.
As CNBC recounts, the internet giant argued that The WSJ’s reports “cherry-picked” data and that the study was analyzed out of context.
However, the senators went the extra mile as Sen- Blumenthal’s staff created an Instagram profile “identified as a 13-year-old girl” with which they started following accounts linked to “extreme dieting and eating disorders.”
“Within a day, its recommendations were exclusively filled with accounts that promote self-injury and eating disorders,” the Senator said.
The session was seen as a Facebook defeat, as Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. said she was “disappointed” by Davis’ answers.
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