Instagram boss Adam Mosseri toasted by Congress over efforts to protect children


Instagram chief Adam Mosseri testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Wednesday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger / UPI | License photo

December 8 (UPI) – Senate lawmakers on Wednesday pressed Instagram official Adam Mosseri over the social network’s failure to keep children safe on the platform.

Mosseri, in his first testimony to Congress, responded to lawmakers’ concerns by calling for the creation of an industry body to govern social media networks. Members of the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety and data security were dissatisfied with his vision and called for more direct regulation of the company.

In her opening statement, Mosseri described child safety as an “industry-wide issue” that also affects competitors such as YouTube and TikTok.

“We have been calling for regulation for almost three years now and from where I am sitting there is no area more important than the safety of young people,” he said.

Mosseri suggested a body within the industry that would create standards for age verification, age-appropriate experience, and online parental controls. He added that the body should receive contributions from civil society and parents and could make legal protections for tech companies dependent on meeting its standards.

Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass., Dismissed the idea, saying that an industry entity would only serve to maintain the status quo, while the chairman of the subcommittee, Senator Richard Blumenthal, D -Conn., Asked if Instagram would support the creation of an independent network. governing body funded with independently appointed members.

“Self-control depends on trust,” said Blumenthal. “Confidence is gone.”

Mosseri refused to make an explicit commitment to accept an independent board of directors. He also denied a request by Blumenthal to permanently halt development of Instagram Kids, a product intended for children aged 10 to 12, stating that parents would have control over their children’s access to the product once. this one finished.

The hearing is part of a larger investigation into online youth safety, including testimony from executives at TikTok and YouTube and after the testimony of whistleblower Frances Haugen who said in October that the company Instagram’s mother, Meta, known at the time as “Facebook”, has long known about disinformation and hate speech on her platforms and the negative impacts – especially Instagram – on young users .

On Tuesday, Instagram announced the launch of “Take a Break”, a new tool available in the United States and several other countries encouraging young users to take a break from the app if they have used it for a long time as part of the program. of its efforts to increase the safety of children.

Mosseri fought with Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, over a report by US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on youth mental health.

The report says technology and other tools “can pit us against each other, reinforce negative behaviors like bullying and exclusion, and undermine the safe and supportive environments young people need and deserve.” if they are not “responsibly and safely” deployed.

Sullivan noted an increase in teenage suicide attempts mentioned in the report, which cited both the pandemic and social media.

Mosseri rebuffed the suggestion that social media was responsible for the increase.

“I want to be clear that I don’t think research shows social media is behind the increase in suicides,” he said.

When Sullivan insisted the report suggested limiting the use of social media by young people, Mosseri said he believed the connection was unfounded.

“From what I’ve read from the Surgeon General’s report so far, it’s about a number of different issues, not just suicides, so to make a connection between an issue he’s talking about and one of the recommendations he makes, I think is a bit of a leap forward, ”he said, adding that the company is working on tools to help parents limit the use of their children. children.

During his testimony on Wednesday, Mosseri also said that Instagram is actively working on a version of its content feed that allows users to sort media chronologically, rather than in an order determined by the platform’s algorithm after s ‘be moved to the latter from 2016.

Blumenthal toasted Mosseri about Instagram’s failure to act on accounts that promote eating disorders.

In September, Blumenthal’s office conducted an experiment in which they created an Instagram account belonging to a 13-year-old girl. The account followed pages focused on diet and eating disorders, and Instagram quickly promoted other accounts that glorified eating disorders.

While Instagram admitted that the Pages violated its policies and shut them down after receiving a sample of the accounts by CNN, Blumenthal said on Wednesday that his office repeated the experiment this week and encountered the same result.

“We created another fake account for a teenager and followed a few accounts promoting eating disorders and again within an hour all of our recommendations sparked pro-anorexia and disorder content. of food, ”said Blumenthal. “Nothing has changed, everything is still happening, and in the meantime other lives have been shattered.”

Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Also said her office conducted an experiment that revealed a flaw in the protection of Instagram for teens on the platform.

Blackburn said her office created an Instagram account for a 15-year-old girl before the meeting through a web browser and the account was public by default, although Instagram said all accounts for people under the age of 16 are automatically set as private. which means that other users must request to follow them in order to see their messages.

“It turns out that we default to under 16s on private accounts for the vast majority of accounts, which are created on Android and iOS, but that has escaped us on the web and we will fix that quickly,” he said. he declared, while refusing to answer if the platform would consider making the accounts of all minors private by default.

Asked by Blackburn to address parents whose children’s mental or physical health has been affected by the platform, Mosseri said that as a father of three boys he couldn’t begin to imagine what it would be like. to be a parent “who has already lost a child or if a child has hurt themselves.”

“As the manager of Instagram, it is my responsibility to do everything I can to keep people safe, I have been committed to this for years and I will continue to do so,” he said. he declares. “Whether or not we invest more than any other business or not doesn’t really matter to an individual, if an individual harms themselves or has a negative experience on our platform, that’s something I take incredibly seriously. “

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Speaks during a press conference at the United States Capitol on Wednesday. Photo by Sarah Silbiger / UPI | License photo

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