Facebook executive saw “serious misdescription” in leaked documents

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Former Facebook (FB) employee Frances Haugen told the US Senate on Tuesday that Instagram is addictive to children “just like cigarettes” and that the social network knows it “drives young users to anorexic content” .

The testimony came after Haugen disclosed a wealth of internal Facebook documents that included the spread of disinformation and division on the site, the damaging effects of Instagram on young users and other topics that sparked a cascade of reviews from the social media giant.

But Facebook vice president of content policy Monika Bickert told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday the documents had been misinterpreted and noted that Haugen had not worked on any of the issues with the leaked material.

“I think we’ve seen some serious misunderstandings that I’m happy to be here today… to help set the record straight,” said Bickert, who has worked with Facebook for nearly a decade.

Bickert pointed to a survey leak revealing that 32% of teenage girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.

“The stolen documents contain what is not a peer-reviewed research article but rather a survey of a small number, I think around 40 Instagram users, who were teenagers who were already at struggling with mental health issues, ”she said.

Former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaks during a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety and data security, at Capitol Hill on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

Bickert pointed out that the survey results also showed that boys and girls said Instagram made them feel better about issues like self-harm and anxiety or didn’t have any problems. material effect on these problems.

“The research we’re doing is about understanding people with a bad experience, and then… creating new products and tools that can help,” Bickert said. “Examples include when you go to Instagram, now if you’re a youngster, hiding how many likes your content gets… or giving people tools to restrict who can follow them so they don’t have to. to do. worry about bullying and harassment.

Facebook had planned to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13, but postponed the new product last week after Haugen leaked the internal documents to the Wall Street Journal. The prospect of a version of Instagram for kids under 13 raised concerns among regulators, including more than 40 attorneys general who called on Facebook to drop the idea in May.

For her part, Bickert referred to her own earlier career as a federal prosecutor in Illinois when she discussed the social media giant’s effects on children.

“I spent my career before Facebook, in child safety and criminal prosecution. And I know I speak on behalf of all of us who work on safety at Facebook, when I say that even a young person with a bad experience is too much, ”she said.

Instagram says that a children’s version of the platform would allow parents to better monitor their children on the service and troubleshoot issues, including children under the age of 13 using the full version of Instagram.

But some experts say Facebook should benefit from the proposed app as well, as enrolling young users at an early age would help them lock them down as users as they get older and move on to the full app. where they can be targeted for advertisements.

During his testimony on Tuesday, Haugen said the leaked documents showed teens struggled to stop using Instagram even when they knew they should.

“One of the papers we sent out on problematic use looked at the rates of problematic use by age, and it peaked at age 14,” Haugen said. “It’s like cigarettes. Adolescents do not have good self-regulation. They explicitly say, “I feel bad when I use Instagram, and yet I can’t stop. “

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