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US lawmakers grill Facebook over mental health fears among teens

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A Facebook whistleblower is set to testify before senators on Tuesday (File)

Washington:

US lawmakers on Thursday pledged from Facebook to address growing concerns over the impact of its platforms on the mental health of teens, but a top executive assured the sites are already safe.

Senators reprimanded social media giant Antigone Davis in an hour-long Capitol Hill hearing after Facebook’s own research warned of harm to the photo-sharing app Instagram, which could harm the well-being of teenage girls. can do for

Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “This research is a bang. It is powerful, entertaining, persuasive evidence that Facebook is aware of the harmful effects of its site on children, and it has hidden those facts and findings.”

Under questioning from Blumenthal and other senators, Davis repeatedly stated that the Wall Street Journal series chose parts of his study to give an unfairly dark vision of the company’s work.

She told lawmakers that a survey of teens on 12 serious issues such as anxiety, sadness and eating disorders showed that Instagram was generally helpful to them.

“On 11 out of 12 issues, teen girls who said they were struggling with those issues were more likely to say that Instagram was helping them, not making it worse,” Davis said.

Still, Blumenthal read aloud portions of the company’s documents he said had been leaked to lawmakers by a Facebook whistleblower who directly contradicted that.

– Facebook whistleblower –

“Ample evidence suggests that experiences on Instagram and Facebook make body dissatisfaction worse,” he said, adding that the findings were not a complaint from a disgruntled employee, but rather company research.

A Facebook whistleblower is set to testify before senators on Tuesday, but it was not immediately clear whether that person was also the source of the leaked documents.

The social media giant has faced a growing backlash, including Thursday’s hearing, in the wake of the Journal’s report that it halted work on a plan to create a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, sharply criticized Is.

Facebook argued that a specially designed platform would allow some parental controls in an online world already full of kids, but critics called it a cynical tactic to hook the youngest users .

Lawmakers on Thursday called on Facebook to release all of its research and pledge not to target children under the age of 13.

“Miss Davis Are you committed that Facebook will not launch any platform targeting children 12 and under that includes features … that allow children to measure popularity?” asked Senator Ed Markey.

Davis sidestepped his query, saying instead that the company’s products “stay rich” by allowing teens to connect with friends and family.

He said Facebook was looking for ways to share more of its findings, but had “privacy considerations” to keep in mind.

On Wednesday, the company released a heavily annotated version of the two presentations on its own research but it was unclear what percentage of their internal studies they represent.

The company has been under constant pressure to avoid becoming a platform where misinformation, hate and child-harming material can spread.

Legislators have struggled to pass new rules that would update online security in decades-old laws drafted long before social media even existed.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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