Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri will testify before the Senate for the first time as part of a series of hearings about online safety for children and teens. Per The New York Times, Mosseri’s hearing will take place on December 6.
Mosseri’s upcoming testimony comes after Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote a letter to Facebook (now Meta) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking that either he or Mosseri participate in a Senate hearing.
Mosseri posted a video responding to the news of his forthcoming appearance on Capitol Hill. He discussed growing concerns about teen safety online, then outlined past actions Instagram has taken to protect young users, like making young teens’ accounts private by default and restricting the kinds of ads they see.
“I’m going to be talking about these issues with Congress relatively soon,” Mosseri said. “These are important issues, but we all have shared goals. We all want young people to be safe when they’re online.”
There's an important discussion happening right now about keeping young people safe online. I've been thinking a lot about how Instagram shows up, and I'm looking forward to sharing more of the work we're doing in the weeks ahead 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/dLQNDh6G34
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) November 24, 2021
When reports leaked in September about Instagram’s knowledge of its dangerous affects on teen girls, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation didn’t take it lightly. The committee first questioned Facebook Global Head of Security Antigone Davis, who was reticent to answer direct questions from the Senate. Then weeks later, the committee heard testimony from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former civic integrity product manager who leaked thousands of internal documents known as the “Facebook Papers.” In her hearing, Haugen told the Senate that Facebook cares more about profits than user safety.
“I am disappointed that Facebook has been unwilling to be fully transparent with me, other members of Congress, and the public, and appears to have concealed vital information from us about teen mental health and addiction,” wrote Senator Blumenthal, who chairs the Senate committee hosting these hearings. “When I sought specific information about Instagram and teens in an August letter, Facebook provided clearly evasive and misleading answers that have now been directly disputed by Ms. Haugen.”
Facebook grilled in Senate hearing over teen mental health
Now, after hearing from executives at Snap, TikTok and YouTube last month, the committee will convene again to hear from the head of Instagram himself. Given the committee’s demonstrated concern about Instagram’s connection to the onset of adolescent eating disorders, it’s expected that Mosseri will be questioned about leaked internal studies that Meta conducted about Instagram’s impact on teen girls.
The internal study, obtained by The Wall Street Journal and later published by Meta itself, found that Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three teen girls, and that teens blame Instagram for increases in anxiety and depression. Among teens with suicidal thoughts, the study says that 6% of users traced their desire to die by suicide to Instagram. Plus, 32% of surveyed teen girls reported that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made those feelings worse.
Shortly after these documents were leaked, Mosseri announced that Instagram would pause building Instagram Kids. Meta already has products like Messenger Kids, which lets users under 13 chat with people approved by their parents.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before the Senate
“While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project,” Mosseri wrote. “This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.”
But critics are skeptical of Meta’s ability to build an Instagram Kids product responsibly. Per research published this month, Facebook allegedly continues to surveil teens for ad targeting.
“It is urgent and necessary for you or Mr. Adam Mosseri to testify to set the record straight and provide members of Congress and parents with a plan on how you are going to protect our kids,” Senator Blumenthal wrote to Zuckerberg.