Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram since 2018, appeared before a Senate hearing on Wednesday after reports claimed that the social media platform had numerous privacy and safety issues for minors.
Revealed by The Washington Post in the “Facebook Papers,” internal documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen detailed studies in which researchers found that “32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”
A Senate committee full of bipartisan support was formed by Democratic subcommittee Chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn to further investigate the claims of mental health issues and damaging content.
According to The New York Times, it was Adam Mosseri’s first appearance in front of a Senate hearing committee. He was the highest-ranking official from Instagram’s parent company Meta, which was recently formed by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. The announcement was made amid backlash from the social media platform’s possible role in failing to stop users from organizing for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“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 Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
He is the lead Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee’s panel on consumer protection, which is leading Wednesday’s hearing on Instagram’s potential danger to minors.
“Instagram’s repeated failures to protect children’s privacy have already been exposed before the U.S. Senate,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn. “Now, it is time for action. I look forward to discussing tangible solutions to improve safety and data security for our children and grandchildren.”
On Tuesday, just a day before he would have to defend the social media platform to the Senate committee, Adam Mosseri announced new features that Instagram was working on, such as a parental controls and a “special version of the app for kids.”
Among those new features includes a way for parents to monitor how long their child spends on Instagram, as well as the ability to introduce new topics if the user spends too much time looking at one particular interest.
According to CNBC, Instagram will also be able to prevent users from tagging or mentioning minors who don’t already follow them, notify parents if a teenager reports another user, and introduce a “Take a Break” feature, which will remind users to momentarily stop scrolling. A similar feature already exists on TikTok, where it appears as just another video in the user’s feed.
“Once these standards are imposed, it will be improved by policy makers like yourself,” Adam Mosseri told the Senate committee on Wednesday.
The features are expected to be rolled out later in 2022, according to CNBC, where it will be made available to all users in America, Britain, and Australia.
Adam Mosseri claimed that he supported federal regulation when it came to children’s safety, but dismissed the reporting revealed in the “Facebook Papers” as “inaccurate.”
He said that the number of suicides from teenagers who claimed in written notes that Instagram accounted for part of the reason to end their own lives was fudged, and that the 6% number was more like “1 or 2%.”
Many senators, such as Sen. Ed Markey, proposed banning targeted ads and strengthening the security to stop children under the age of 13 from using the app (the required minimum age to create an account on the social media platform).
Just this past October, the Senate subcommittee also held an online child safety hearing with executives from YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.