Sen. Richard Blumenthal wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, requesting that he or the head of Instagram testify about the platform’s negative effects on children.
Blumenthal wrote, citing internal company documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, that Facebook “appears to have concealed vital information from us about teen mental health and addiction. 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.”
The Wall Street Journal reported in September, as part of a series based on the leaked documents, that Facebook researchers have been studying how Instagram, which it owns, affects its millions of young users for the past three years. According to the findings, the platform can negatively impact mental health and body image, particularly among adolescent girls.
Instagram appeared to be forced to reconsider its plans to introduce a version of its service for children under the age of 13 as a result of the Journal’s reporting and the renewed pressure from lawmakers that followed. Instagram announced it would take a break on the project just days before Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, testified before Blumenthal’s Commerce subcommittee.
Blumenthal said he was dismayed that in her testimony, Davis “appears to have provided false or inaccurate testimony to me regarding attempts to internally conceal its research.”
“Notably, in response to direct questions about whether Facebook has locked down or shut out access to documents, Ms. Davis stated ‘it’s not my understanding that we’ve done that”‘ and committed to following up with my office about any changes in that understanding. However, last week, several media outlets reported that [Facebook] has locked down documents from the Facebook Integrity team. These are the actions of a company attempting to resist scrutiny, not embrace transparency.”