Earlier this year, a series of reports from the Wall Street Journal showed that Instagram has neglected to protect teens’ mental health and needs to improve its teen protection measures.
Following the comments of Ex-Meta employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen about Instagram being “more dangerous than other forms of social media.”, Mosseir appears in front of Senator Richard Blumenthal despite the senate having called for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify.
Here we are sharing 5 things we learn about Instagram’s teen protection measures from Mosseri’s Congress testimony
Last-minute update on Instagram’s teen protection measure
Hours before the hearing started, Instagram posted an article on its efforts to protect teens. It said that the company will roll out new tools next year. This will allow parents to set time limits for their teens on social media.
This article also stated that Instagram helps parents to learn more about how Instagram works with the new educational hub the company is planning to create for parents.
In addition to the new feature that allows kids to delete their old posts in bulks, Instagram is making efforts to nudge them toward different topics if they’re getting too deep in one rabbit hole.
During the hearing, the senators said they’re concerned that these tools might be a PR move and Senator Marsha Blackburn added:
“While we share the common goal of protecting kids and teens online, what we aren’t sure about is how the half measures you’ve introduced are going to get us there.”
Senators tested Instagram’s teen protection measures with their Finsta accounts
Members of the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security made fake accounts and replicated the Instagram experience on teen-friendly sites to prove the app wasn’t doing enough to protect the privacy of the young users.
Blackburn stated that they were able to create an account as a 15-year-old girl, despite Instagram’s announcement in July about turning all under-16 accounts private by default at sign up. Blumenthal shared his finsta account experience saying that:
We created a fake account and followed a few accounts about eating disorders, and within hours it was shown pro-anorexia and eating disorder content, which was harmful.
In addition, the senator highlighted that Instagram hasn’t made any changes after her team highlighted major issues after running the same finsta experiment two months ago.
Chronological Instagram feed is coming back
In his testimony, Mosseri said that Instagram’s goal is to let people have more control over what they see on their feeds by rolling out a version of a chronological feed.
Instagram’s chronological feed is coming back
Instagram is also experimenting with “favorites”—a function that lets you choose what updates and posts appear in your newsfeed higher up than others as in Facebook.
Instagram fights for industry-wide standards teen protection measures
In his opening statement, Mosseri committed to providing data to independent researchers to study Instagram’s algorithms and said that they’ve been calling for regulation for three years.
The Instagram head quoted an independent study claiming that teens use YouTube and TikTok more than Instagram to point out that teen safety is not only related to Instagram but it is more like an industry-wide problem that requires industry-wide standards, and industry-wide solutions.
He also proposed that the company should work with civil society and regulators to develop universal guidelines about age verification, parental controls, and the appropriate age of content for different audiences.
Mosseri added that Instagram has announced new technology-based tools for removing accounts for users under 13 years old. And the company is not just relying on government-issued ID cards to verify user ages.
Blumenthal critics the idea of a self-regulatory body by saying ”The time for self-policing and self-regulation is over. We need independent researchers, objective overseers not chosen by big tech. Standards that stop toxic content that has driven kids to dark rabbit holes.”
Blumenthal also said that the US should follow the UK in order to prevent addictive app designs from harming children.
Is the Instagram Kids project still on the table?
When asked if the company would still consider building an app for kids, Mosseri responded:
“If we ever manage to build Instagram for 10- to 12-year-olds, they wouldn’t have access to that without explicit parental consent.”
Instagram has announced it will put a pause on its plans to develop a kid-friendly version of the app this September.
One massive issue with Instagram is that the difficulty of age verification. Even if there is an age limit to use the app, as many kids under the age of 13 use Instagram without facing any issues.