Instagram teen research by Facebook will be made public, says company

Facebook says it will make public two Instagram teen research presentations, following claims that these showed the app to be “toxic” to teenage girls.

The controversy over the studies has now reached Congress, with Facebook’s head of safety being called to testify before the Senate later this week …


The issue was highlighted when the WSJ obtained access to an internal presentation on three years’ worth of research into the impact of Instagram use by teenagers, particularly teenage girls.

An internal report describes a number of ways in which Instagram is harmful to as many as 20% of teenage girls using the app. It can increase anxieties about physical attractiveness, social image, and money, and even increase suicide risk, according to Facebook’s own research […]

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

Facebook claimed that the findings had been taken out of context, and that its research actually showed that Instagram use did more good than harm.

In 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said that Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse.

However, it subsequently announced that it was suspending work on an Instagram for Kids project.

Over the past few months, reports about Instagram developing an alternative for kids received a lot of bad press and some organizations criticized Facebook for this […] Now, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, published an article saying the company is pausing Instagram for Kids.

Instagram teen research to be made public

Engadget reports that Facebook has now promised to make copies of two presentations available to both Congress and the public.

Facebook will publish two internal slide decks detailing its research into how Instagram affects teens’ mental health sometime “in the next few days.” Speaking at an online event hosted by The Atlantic, the company’s policy chief Nick Clegg said the company would release the data to Congress before making it available to the public.

“We’re just making sure that all the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted so that we can release it both to Congress and then to the public in the next few days,” Clegg said of the slides, some of which have already been made public.

However, questions are already being asked about the nature of the planned disclosure.

Last month, the company released a report on “widely viewed content” on its platform. The report was meant to rebuff criticism that News Feed favors polarizing content. But researchers outside the company quickly poked holes in the report, and said it was emblematic of Facebook’s larger transparency issues, particularly when it comes to working with outside researchers.

Additionally, Democrats have said that they want work on the kids project to be cancelled, not just paused.

Members of Congress responded saying they want the company to end the project entirely. Facebook’s head of safety is scheduled to testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the subject Thursday.

Photo: Daniel Korpai/Unsplash

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