Facebook Inc. is under the radar of U.S. senators over a leaked internal research concerning the organization’s awareness about the devastating effects of Instagram on teen mental health.
The issue caught fire after the Wall Street Journal published a series of stories in September 2021 on how Facebook was aware that the new kids-specific app developed by Instagram has triggered negative self-image in some teen girls. The reports were based on a leaked document of the research carried out by Facebook itself. The revelation attracted huge media attention, which led the U.S. senators to call for the hearing in front of the Senate Consumer Protection subcommittee.
Though the Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform had to halt the new project amid growing resistance, Instagram continued to defend their case firmly.
“Critics of “Instagram Kids” will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today,” a blog-post from the company stated.
Further, in his testimony, Antigone Davis, global head of safety at Facebook, dismissed the allegations and maintained his stand on the company’s commitment to better protect children and teens online. “Our research showed that many teens who are struggling say that Instagram helps them deal with many of the hard issues that are so common to being a teen,” his written testimony says.
However, the senators are not ready to accept the explanation provided by the social media giant.
Allegations and counter defense
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat called the research as “a bombshell” and a “powerful, gripping, riveting evidence” against Facebook that concealed the facts and findings related to the harmful effects of the new Instagram app on children.
A Democrat from Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey went on to abbreviate IG (Instagram) as Insta-Greed.
The senators tried to question Davis on several major themes, including the inquiries on identifiable data that users under the age of 13 have to provide while registering them. He was also asked to reveal details about the company’s expectations from young users as a growth area and whether the company was aware that some young Instagram-users were experiencing suicide ideation.
David, on the other hand, reiterated that the app does not allow kids under 13 years of age on Facebook, while disagreeing on the Instagram-related “suicidal ideation” figure (0.5 percent of teens) as reported by the Journal. He also told the senators that the actual figure was much lower in the company’s research.
In response, Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, demanded that Facebook releases the controversial research related to Instagram and youth suicide. “You’ve cherry-picked part of the research that you think helps your spin right now,” he said.
Whistleblower expected to appear with controversial docs
Meanwhile, a second hearing is planned for Tuesday, October 5, 2021, which will see a Facebook whistleblower make its appearance. The identity of the whistleblower was revealed on Sunday in a recorded interview for TV news program 60 Minutes. The whistleblower, a former Facebook woman employee, revealed that the company prioritized profit over public good.
However, Davis has assured that the whistleblower would not face any retaliation or action from Facebook for sharing confidential documents with the senators.
Suicide ideation and mental disorders a reality
Unfortunately, suicide ideation and teen mental disorders are a reality. According to the latest findings of the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), a sharp increase has been observed in depression-related impairment in adolescents and teens. A recent study observed that cases of major depressive disorder (MDD) have increased by an overwhelming 69 percent in teens aged 16 to 17 years of age.
Medical Concierge understands the challenges teens face. They usually shy away from discussing their issues and accepting that they might have a problem. Our skilled team has extensive experience in dealing with teens and their problems. We offer customized treatment programs including mental health treatment programs specifically designed keeping in mind the needs of teens. To know more about our depression treatment center in California call our helpline 877-636-0042. Alternatively, you can also chat online with a representative for further guidance.