Instagram head faces questions from lawmakers over app's impact on kids

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
totalITemsFound:
maxPaginationLinks: 10
maxPossiblePages:
startIndex:
endIndex:

Courtesy: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

(CNN) — Instagram head Adam Mosseri is set to testify for the first time before a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday as lawmakers question the app's impact on the mental health of younger users.

Mosseri is the most high-profile figure from Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, to testify before members of Congress since Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked hundreds of internal documents. Some of those documents showed the company knew how Instagram can damage mental health and body image, especially among teenage girls.

"After bombshell reports about Instagram's toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company's leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security, said in a statement. Blumenthal previously called on Mosseri or Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Instagram's impact on kids.

Mosseri will argue the platform has long worked to safeguard the well-being of its teen users and show support for government regulation of social media as it relates to children, according to his prepared remarks.

"In addition to making sure young people are safe on Instagram, we believe it's important to support young people who are struggling with mental health and well-being," Mosseri said in the prepared remarks. "Sometimes young people come to Instagram dealing with hard things in their lives. I believe Instagram can help many of them in those moments."

He is also expected to cite internal studies to support this statement and highlight how Instagram leans on outside experts and organizations to inform changes to its apps. "We care deeply about the teens on Instagram, which is in part why we research complex issues like bullying and social comparison and make changes," the remarks state.

Ahead of the hearing this week, Instagram launched a new tool called Take a Break, which it claims will encourage users to spend some time away from the platform after they've been scrolling for a certain period. The company also said it will take a "stricter approach" to what content it recommends to teenagers and actively nudge them toward different topics, such as architecture and travel destinations, if they've been dwelling on something — any type of content — for too long.

Instagram is also testing a new educational hub for parents and a tool that allows them to see how much time their kids spend on Instagram and set time limits.

Facebook has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen and said her testimony in Congress and reports on the documents mischaracterize the company's actions. But the outcry from Haugen's disclosures pressured the company to rethink the launch of an Instagram app for children under 13.

The disclosures also helped spur a series of congressional hearings about how tech products impact kids, featuring execs from Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat's parent company, Snap, and now, Instagram.

In September, lawmakers held a hearing with Facebook's head of global safety, Antigone Davis, where lawmakers grilled her on Instagram's effects on kids. Although Davis said the company was "looking for ways to release more research" that she suggested might paint a different picture about the platform, she was criticized for not more firmly agreeing to release more internal information about the platform.

Members of Congress have shown rare bipartisanship in criticizing tech companies on the issue. Some lawmakers are now pushing for legislation intended to increase children's privacy online and reduce the apparent addictiveness of various platforms — though it remains unclear when or if such legislation will pass.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Instagram head faces questions from lawmakers over app's impact on kids."