Instagram Questioned For Allowing Under 13-Year-Olds To Sign Up; Zuckerberg Called To Testify
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been called by a U.S. Senator to testify about Instagram’s impact on teens, reports CNBC. Senator Richard Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on consumer protection, on Wednesday wrote a letter asking the executive to shed more light on how the photo-sharing app is harming young users.
The request comes in light of whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony in front of Blumenthal’s committee earlier this month, where she alleged that Facebook knew Instagram was becoming “toxic” for teens. Citing internal research documents that she leaked to the press, she said that the algorithm pushed content that led teenage users, the majority of which were girls, to have negative body image and inflict self-harm.
“Parents across America are deeply disturbed by ongoing reports that Facebook knows that Instagram can cause destructive and lasting harms to many teens and children, especially to their mental health and wellbeing,” wrote Blumenthal in his letter. “Those parents, and the twenty million teens that use your app, have a right to know the truth about the safety of Instagram.”
The senator also said that Instagram chief Adam Mosseri could stand for Zuckerberg. He added that it is “urgent and necessary” for either of them to provide a plan of how parents can protect their kids from these harms.
Facebook has confirmed that Zuckerberg has received the letter, but he has yet to respond to the call. If he refuses, Blumenthal could force him to testify through a subpoena. The senator, however, noted that he’s giving the Facebook chief a chance to voluntarily attend the hearing, saying “He has a public responsibility to answer these questions.”
Instagram is the fourth most used social media platform in Singapore behind YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook, according to 2021 data from We Are Social and Hootsuite.
Statista’s research last year finds that at least 1.6% of Singapore’s Instagram userbase are girls within the age range of 13 to 18. Boys, meanwhile, account for 1.2%. This is the group that is said to be the most vulnerable to the negative effects of using Instagram.
Some of the negative effects include developing eating disorders, becoming depressed and having lower self-esteem, among others.
In 2019, The Straits Times reported that National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said that suicide cases are rising in the country, and the use of social media is one of the causes. While there has yet to be a local study that links the two, Wong said that Singapore is not immune to global social media trends, adding that it can shape a person’s self-worth.
Zuckerberg has also been recently named as a defendant in a lawsuit regarding Cambridge Analytica's data mining scandal. District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced the Facebook chief’s addition to the suit on Wednesday, 20 October, stating that he was personally involved in decisions related to Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s failure to protect user data.”
This is reportedly the first time that a U.S. lawmaker has specifically named Zuckerberg in a complaint, which could put him at risk of personal liability.
The complaint was first filed in 2018, the same year the scandal erupted, in which the personal data of over 87 million Facebook users were harvested and used by political firm Cambridge Analytica.
Written by Kyle Chua