Ex Facebook employee accuses company of harming teenagers

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen while testifying before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection has accused Facebook for failing to make changes in Instagram despite internet reports revealing apparent harming teenagers and inciting political violence to fuel misinformation. 

The Instagram research reports were first revealed by The Wall Street Journal mid September based on documents Haugen had leaked to the newspaper raising a public outcry. This has resulted in Facebook putting its work on a kids’ version of Instagram that was targeted for children between 10-12 years.

The sub committee is examining how Facebook used the information from these internal research.

Haugen stated that despite knowing the potential harms Instagram can cause, the company downplayed the possible negative effects.  She supported her testimony with thousands of pages of internal documents that she had copied before leaving the company.

One such internal study cited that 13.5% of teen girls said that their thoughts of suicide became worse after using Instagram and 17% of teen girls said it made their eating disorders worse.

Haugen stated “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy,” She further added  “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people.”

In response Mark Zuckerberg in a note to Facebook employees has disputed  Hauden’s allegations but did agree with her suggestion on a need for  updated internet regulations as that would relieve private companies from having to make decisions on social issues on their own.

While raising concern of the use of algorithms to rank and limitations of  content to users’ news feeds and limitations of possible remedies, Haugen’s suggestion for improvement includes increasing the minimum age to join Instagram from 13 to 16 or 18.