Senate Calls Emergency Hearing For Mental Health And Social Media

( Last Thursday, a Senate Commerce subcommittee held a hearing to examine the possible harmful effects social media has on young people. During the hearing, Senators from both sides of the aisle grilled Facebook’s Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, over Facebook allowing sex trafficking content on its platform.

This hearing follows revelations from a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook has repeatedly found that Instagram is harmful to a number of teenagers, especially teenage girls, but they have done nothing to rectify the problem.

The Wall Street Journal report cited studies Facebook has conducted over the past several years that examine how Instagram affects is younger users. One internal Facebook presentation reveals that, among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of UK users and six percent of American users traced the issue to Instagram.

What’s more, 32 percent of teen girls who said they felt bad about their bodies said Instagram made them feel worse. Facebook also found that 14 percent of American boys said Instagram made them feel worse about themselves.

While Facebook concluded that a large percentage of teens aren’t negatively affected by Instagram, the features that the social media company identified as the most harmful are part of its key makeup.

Following the company line, Davis argued that Facebook has policies against sex trafficking, and revealed plans the social media giant has in place to better protect young people online – for example, making sure the accounts of new Instagram users 16 or younger are set up as private by default. As if those younger users can’t figure out how to go into their settings and change it.

Tennessee Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn hammered Davis over the sex trafficking angle:

Democrat Senator Ed Markey also grilled Davis over the research cited in the Wall Street Journal report.

He accused Facebook of exploiting the peer pressure among young people to be popular and endangering the emotional well-being of its young users. Comparing Facebook to Big Tobacco, Markey said the company is pushing a product that it knows is harmful to the health of young people.

Facebook recently put on hold its plans to launch “Instagram Kids,” a platform geared specifically for children under the age of thirteen.