Facebook will be back in the congressional hot seat on Thursday, testifying about the potential harmful effects its services could be having on children and teenagers.
The Senate hearing, titled Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms, comes after The Wall Street Journal published a series of stories about how the social network knows about the harmful effects of its platforms but downplays them publicly. One of the stories said Facebook-owned Instagram’s internal research showed the photo-sharing app hurt the mental health of teen girls, including their body image.
Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis is scheduled to testify before the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection. The social network has pushed back against The Wall Street Journal’s characterization of its research, noting its internal studies also showed positive impacts the app has on teens. Instagram on Monday said it would pause work on a children’s version of its app.
The hearing is yet another example of how scrutiny of the world’s largest social network is heating up. US lawmakers of both political parties have been pressing tech platforms more aggressively about the impact they have on young users.
“Facebook’s track record is clear: failing to keep kids safe & bolstering their bottom line. They have an obligation to mitigate the danger that their platforms’ pose to our children. At this Thursday’s Commerce subcommittee hearing, I’ll be demanding answers,” US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the subcommittee, tweeted on Tuesday.
Here’s what you need to know:
The hearing begins Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET/7:30 a.m. PT.
Tune in on the subcommittee’s website or CNET’s YouTube channel where the hearing will be livestreamed.
What to expect
Facebook’s response to The Wall Street Journal’s articles already provide a glimpse into how the company is planning to defend its platforms and the internal research it conducts.
On Sunday, the social network said it’s not accurate to say that the research shows that Instagram is “toxic” for teen girls. “The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced,” Facebook’s Head of Research Pratiti Raychoudhury said in a blog post.
Lawmakers will likely press Facebook for more details about how it’s combating any potential harmful impacts on mental health.
“Big Tech’s pattern of choosing profit over the wellbeing of young users is extremely concerning & we must hold them accountable,” US Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, tweeted on Monday.
Thursday’s hearing is one of several that the subcommittee plans to hold. On Oct. 5, a Facebook whistleblower is scheduled to testify before US lawmakers.