Instagram Boss agrees to testify as U.S. Congress investigates app’s impact on young people, Tech News News & Top Stories

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NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Instagram boss Mr Adam Mosseri has agreed to testify before the United States Congress for the first time as party anger over the app’s harm to young people rises.

Mr. Mosseri is expected to appear in a series of hearings on online child protection before a Senate panel the week of December 6th, said Senator Richard Blumenthal of the Connecticut Democratic Party. Mr Blumenthal will chair the hearing.

Mr. Mosseri’s appearance follows hearings earlier this year with Ms. Antigone Davis, global security chief of Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, and Ms. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who turned whistleblower.

Ms. Haugen’s revelations about the social networking company, particularly research by Facebook and Instagram into its impact on some teenagers and young girls, has sparked criticism, inquiries from politicians, and regulatory investigations.

In September, Ms. Davis told Congress the company denied the premise that Instagram was harmful to teenagers, noting that the leaked research contained no causal data.

But according to Ms. Haugen’s testimony last month, Mr. Blumenthal wrote a letter to Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, noting that his company “gave me false or inaccurate statements about attempts to hide its research internally” .

Mr. Blumenthal asked Mr. Zuckerberg or Mr. Mosseri to testify before the Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the Senate’s Trade Committee in order to fix the matter.

“He’s the top man on Instagram, and the whole nation is wondering why Instagram and other technology platforms have caused so much danger and harm by feeding children toxic content with these immensely powerful algorithms,” said Blumenthal, chairman of the subcommittee.

“The hearing will be essential to help us develop laws that can have an impact on making platforms more secure.”

Ms. Dani Lever, a spokeswoman for Meta, said in a statement, “We are continuing to work with the committee to set a date for Adam to testify about the important steps Instagram is taking.”

Mr Blumenthal said he will interview Mr Mosseri about how Instagram’s algorithms can send children down dangerous rabbit holes. Since the subcommittee’s hearings began, lawmakers have heard from hundreds of parents and children who have shared personal anecdotes, including stories about how fitness-related posts became recommendations for content related to extreme dieting, eating disorders, and self-harm.

Mr Blumenthal said he will undertake by Mr Mosseri to make Instagram’s ranking and recommendation decisions transparent to the public and to experts who can study how the app amplifies harmful content. Mr Blumenthal said executives from Snap, TikTok and YouTube who testified in an earlier hearing have committed to algorithmic transparency.

While Mr. Zuckerberg has got used to being dragged before U.S. lawmakers, Mr. Mosseri will testify under oath for the first time. As the trusted lieutenant of Mr. Zuckerberg, who was selected to head Instagram in 2018, Mr. Mosseri has become the public face of the photo sharing app, which regularly hosts video announcements about new features and shows up on morning TV shows.

In September, ahead of Ms. Davis’s Senate hearing, Mr. Mosseri appeared on NBC’s Today Show to announce that Instagram was developing a version of the app for children following public backlash and renewed legislature interest caused by Ms. Haugen’s leaks will be interrupted. BuzzFeed News first reported in March that the company was working on a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.

Mr. Mosseri’s scheduled appearance is the latest fallout from Ms. Haugen’s leaked files, first reported by the Wall Street Journal. These documents, called The Facebook Papers, formed the basis of several complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission that Meta misled investors about its efforts to protect users.

Last week, a bipartisan group of 11 attorneys general announced that they had opened an investigation into whether Meta had failed to protect the psychological well-being of young people on its platforms, including Instagram.

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