Facebook in the hot seat over leaked data about young users

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Facebook attempted to do damage control Thursday as lawmakers questioned company representatives over an internal study that was leaked recently by a whistleblower.

The information exposed some alarming data related to kids and teenage Instagram users (Facebook owns Instagram) and the platform’s impact on self-esteem and mental health.

The company released some of the data on Wednesday to the public and is promising more, but lawmakers say it’s too little, too late.

“Facebook has shown once again it is incapable of holding itself accountable,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., put it blatantly, saying, “We don’t trust you.” She pointed out issues such as “intense social pressure, addiction, body image issues, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts” that the data revealed among young users of the platform.

The lawmakers said the company ignored internal data showing Instagram lowers self-esteem among children and teens and harms their mental health.

Sens. Blackburn and Blumenthal said the company put profits over the wellbeing of kids.

“It’s taken big tobacco’s playbook, it has hidden its own research on addiction,” said Blumenthal.

Following the backlash, Facebook announced it is delaying plans to launch an Instagram for kids 13 and under.

At the hearing, the company’s global head of safety Antigone Davis downplayed the findings and said Facebook is already employing new strategies to help.

“This research is not causal research,” said Davis. “The research is being used to make product changes.”

But lawmakers are skeptical.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is introducing legislation to allow parents to sue the tech giant.

“You got to be able to hold them accountable,” Hawley said.

Senators are also demanding an investigation into potential abuses.

Next Tuesday, the whistleblower who leaked the data in question will appear before lawmakers.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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