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"If they feel unhappy and can express that unhappiness, even that alone suggests the problem is worth taking seriously." Alter added that the issues mentioned aren't all that easy to address. Alter expressed concern regarding, for example, the difficulties in trying to sh

The issue began in mid-September and was highlighted in the middle of September, when Wall Street Journal released an expose that was titled "Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show." The report stated that Facebook has discovered troubling information about the negative effects the Instagram service on its young users. It pointed to an internal presentation that was leaked to the newspaper by an anonymous whistle-blower which included a slide which claimed the following "thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse." A different slide provided an even more blunt conclusive conclusion "Teens have blamed Instagram for an increase in depression and anxiety. The reaction was not provoked and was the same across all age groups."

 

The revelations caused an uproar in the media. "Instagram Is Even Worse Than We Thought for Kids," said in a Washington Post report released in the days after the Journal's report. "It's Not Just Teenage Girls--Instagram Is Toxic for Everyone," stated in an opinion piece from The Boston Globe. "Zuckerberg's public comments about his platform's effects on mental health appear to be at odds with Facebook's internal findings," reported The New York Post. In a scathing post posted via Facebook's Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg pushed back and claimed that the motivations for his firm were "misrepresented." The very reality that Facebook conducted this study according to him, suggests that the company is concerned about the health effects that its offerings have on people's health. Zuckerberg added information, which was included in the leaked slides that revealed that, in 11 of the 12 areas of concern examined (such as eating disorders and loneliness issues) teens more claimed they believed that Instagram did more good than harm. However, in the background Instagram paused its work on a brand new Instagram Kids service hacked text generator.

 

The company's responses were not enough to stop the criticism. In the beginning of October, the whistleblower made her story public with an interview with "60 Minutes," revealing her identity as Frances Haugen, a data scientist who been working for Facebook regarding issues involving the democratic process and misinformation. A few days later, Haugen testified for three hours in front of an Senate subcommittee. She argued that Facebook's emphasis on growth and security has led to "more division, more harm, more lies, more threats, and more combat." In an uncommon moment of unity, Democratic and Republican members of the subcommittee seemed be in agreement that social media platforms pose a threat. "Every part of the country has the harms that are inflicted by Facebook and Instagram," the chairman of the subcommittee senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, said in a press release after Haugen's testimony.

 

It's not the first time Facebook is under criticism. What I was struck by with this particular saga however, was more its tone, which was almost always negative, than the content. The reaction in response to The Journal's report quickly demanded sanctions and restrictions on Facebook. In many instances the commentators expressed anger over the lack of any retribution that has been enacted up to now. "Both Democrats and Republicans have lambasted Facebook for years, amid polls showing the company is deeply unpopular with much of the public," said an eloquent piece by The Washington Post. "Despite that, little has been done to bring the company to heel." What's not mentioned in the discussion is the discussion of what's arguably the most natural reaction to the leaks regarding Instagram's possible harm should kids use these apps at all?


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