Instagram head agrees to testify before Congress on child safety fears
After an onslaught of requests, Instagram head Adam Mosseri will testify before Congress next month as the popular photo-sharing app continues to face scrutiny from lawmakers about its effect on young people.
Mosseri will appear before a Senate subcommittee during the week of Dec. 6, as part of a series of discussions on ways to protect children online, an aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, said Wednesday.
“After bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company’s leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,” said Blumenthal in a written statement.
Mosseri’s testimony will be the first by a high-ranking executive at Meta, the social media company formerly known as Facebook, and since documents provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and Congress by attorneys for Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee. A consortium of 17 news organizations, including USA TODAY, obtained redacted copies of them.
Facebook changes name to Meta:Mark Zuckerberg announces company rebrand as it moves to the metaverse
Last month, Blumenthal wrote a letter to Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg asking him or Mosseri to testify about the photo- and video-sharing platform’s harm to kids, citing Haugen’s testimony and her leaked Facebook internal documents. Haugen said kids who use the social media platforms do not have good “self-regulation.”
Blumenthal’s request has been one of many that lawmakers have made to the company demanding they meet with them after plans to create an Instagram for kids app they said would exploit kids’ overall well-being. The demands intensified after Haugen’s leak and subsequent testimony in front of Congress.
In a tweet, Mosseri said Wednesday that as a father of three kids, he feels an extra responsibility to keep Instagram safe for young people. Mosseri said he looks forward to the conversation with Congress as they have some “shared goals.”
“We all want young people to be safe when they’re online so I look forward to these conversations,” Mosseri said, “and you’re going to hear more from us about safety, not only at Instagram but at Meta more broadly.”
Also in his tweet, Mosseri said Instagram has new tools including “hidden words,” which gives users more control over what others can say in their direct messages and comments. Hs also Instagram is creating tools for parents to help control how much time their kids spend on the app.
In September, Mosseri said Instagram was “pausing” a kids app amid outcry from parents, advocacy groups, and lawmakers, including Blumenthal. Also that month, Congress held a hearing with Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety, grilling her about Instagram’s effects on kids. Davis told lawmakers that the company didn’t think Instagram was harmful to teens and added that the company was “looking for ways to release more research.”
Mosseri’s confirming he will testify also comes a week after a bipartisan group of state attorneys general announced they will investigate Meta and Instagram for allegedly ignoring its own internal research about the mental and health effects the platform has on kids.
A Meta spokesperson called the accusations “false” and said they demonstrate “a deep misunderstanding of the facts.”
“While challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we’ve led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders,” the company said in a statement.