Opposition to Facebook’s plans gained momentum this month when the Journal published articles based on leaked internal documents that showed Facebook was aware of many of the damage it was causing. Facebook’s internal research showed that Instagram, in particular, made teenage girls feel worse about their bodies and led to increased rates of anxiety and depression, even though company executives publicly tried to minimize the inconvenience of the app.
Facebook’s global chief security officer Antigone Davis is scheduled to testify at a Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing on Thursday titled “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram and Mental Health Harms.”
Instagram Kids’ simple hiatus was insufficient, said lawmakers including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and chair of the subcommittee that held Thursday’s hearing. In a statement, he and others said Facebook has “completely lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online, and it must abandon this project altogether.”
Lawmakers added that stricter regulation was needed. “Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know Congress has to step in,” they said.
A children’s version of Instagram wouldn’t solve more systemic issues, said Al Mik, spokesperson for 5Rights Foundation, a London-based group focused on children’s digital rights issues. The group released a report in July, showing that children as young as 13 were targeted within 24 hours of creating an account with harmful content, including material related to eating disorders, extreme diets, sexualized images, bodily humiliation, self-harm and suicide.
“Big Tobacco has figured out that the younger you are with someone, the easier it is to get them hooked on being a lifelong user,” Doug Peterson, Attorney General of Nebraska, said in an interview. “I see comparisons with social media platforms. “