Facebook publishes internal research into effects of Instagram on teens, ahead of testimonials

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Sarah Tew / CNET

Facebook released its internal research on Instagram’s impact on teens on Wednesday after a Wall Street Journal survey raised serious concerns about the impact of the photo sharing app on adolescent mental health, including girls’ body image.

The report, based on an “internal communications find” reviewed by the Journal, prompted U.S. lawmakers to pressure the world’s largest social network for more responses. The social media giant replied that the news agency had misunderstood the purpose of the report and its conclusions.

After Facebook published its internal research on Wednesday, the Journal followed by publish six documents he said were used to inform his Instagram report. The documents were also provided to Congress by an individual seeking whistleblower status, the Journal said.

Antigone Davis, Global Head of Facebook Security testified before Congress Thursday about the potential harmful effects its services could have on children and adolescents. Senators took Facebook to task during the hearing, which occasionally heated up as Davis appeared to avoid answering questions directly.

The newly released research from Facebook is split into two sets of slides that have been heavily annotated by Facebook to reframe the material.

“We added annotations to each slide that give more context, as this type of research is designed to inform internal conversations and the documents were created and used by people who understood the limits of the research,” said Facebook when posting the search.

Facebook research found that “one in five teenagers say Instagram makes them feel worse about themselves,” according to one of the slides released Wednesday.

The research also confirmed information from the Journal, which found that Instagram worsened body image issues for about one in three teenage girls. Research showed that 32.4% of teenage girls surveyed said they thought Instagram made body images worse, compared to 22.1% who said the app improved the issues.

The teens also said Instagram increased rates of anxiety and depression, the Journal reported, citing company documents.

The Journal reported on September 14 that Facebook researchers conducted studies over the past three years and found that Instagram is “harmful for a significant percentage” of young users, especially teenage girls. Facebook pushed back the report, claiming in a blog post on Sunday that the object and results of his research on Instagram are misinterpreted.

In the midst of the review however, Facebook said on Monday that it was suspend the development of Instagram Kids, a dedicated service that she is building for children, in order to devote time to the development of parental supervision tools. In a blog post, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said he believes in building Instagram Kids is “the right thing to do,” but added that the company is keen to work with parents, experts and policy makers to demonstrate the “value and need” of the service.

On October 5, a Facebook whistleblower is scheduled to testify before U.S. lawmakers. The whistleblower, who has not been identified, will be interviewed on 60 minutes the 3rd of October.



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