‘Pro-Eating Disorder Bubble’ on Instagram sparks uproar (1)

Lawmakers are demanding answers from Meta Platforms Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg after new evidence emerged that the company disseminates dangerous content about eating disorders in children and teens.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has been repeatedly criticized for what lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see as a failure to protect young people online from targeted advertising. Former Facebook data engineer Frances Haugen’s testimony before a Senate panel last year, in which she claimed the company’s algorithms exploited children and teenagers, brought the issue to the fore. ramp.

In an April 29 letter to Zuckerberg, a group of Democratic lawmakers cited research published this month by Fairplay – a children’s advocacy organization – showing that Instagram algorithms are powering young people’s accounts and content encouraging loss of life. extreme weight and restrictive diets.

The “pro-eating disorder bubble” includes 90,000 unique accounts and reaches 20 million unique subscribers on the platform, according to the study. Children as young as nine and 10, with a median age of 19, follow at least three accounts of eating disorders, he adds.

In their letter, the Democrats said previous studies have shown that Meta has also failed to stop tobacco and alcohol ads; continues to target teenagers based on their personal information after announcing it would limit this activity; and worsened body image issues in teenage girls. Signing the letter were Sens. Ed Markey (Mass) and Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) and Reps. Lori Trahan (Mass) and Catherine Beaver (Florida.).

“All of these failures are strong evidence that Facebook’s content-amplifying and advertising practices are fundamentally incompatible with the well-being of young users,” they wrote.

Meta spokeswoman Liza Crenshaw said such reports fail to take into account that it may do more harm than good to completely remove content related to eating disorders.

“Experts and safety organizations have told us it’s important to strike a balance between allowing people to share their stories or fight for recovery, while removing any content that encourages or promotes eating disorders. , which we’re trying to do,” Crenshaw said.

Meta has started testing a new “nudges” feature that aims to prevent teens from dwelling on content that isn’t “inspirational” or “supportive,” Crenshaw added.

Lawmakers asked Zuckerberg if he would support legislation to update the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which aims to protect the privacy of children 13 and under. Markey and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) last year introduced such legislation – the Children and Young Persons Online Privacy Protection Act (S. 1628) – that would prohibit internet companies from collecting personal information about any person between the ages of 13 and 15 without their consent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Curi in washington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage to [email protected]; Robin Meszoly to [email protected]

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