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Facebook is being interrogated over mental-health impact on kids

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Facebook has defended the impact of its products, saying Instagram has “affirmatively helped” young people. Its global head of safety, Antigone Davis, testified to the US Senate, about child protection.

It comes after a leak exposed how Instagram’s own research had found the platform could harm children’s well-being. Previously, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said the app’s effects on teenagers’.

The committee opened by reiterating Facebook’s own research – first reported on by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) – which found Instagram could have a negative impact on body image and self-esteem. Teenagers “blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression”, it said.

But Ms Davis then told the committee: “We conduct this research, to make our platform better, to minimise the bad and maximise the good and to proactively identify where we can improve.

“We want our platforms to be a place for meaningful interactions with friends and family and we cannot achieve that goal if people do not feel safe.”

Ms Davis said Instagram was also testing a feature called Take a Break which “would encourage somebody to take a break” from their screen.

This would display “when we think [users] may be rabbit hole and down certain kinds of content or are on the app too long.”

The whistleblower who leaked the documents to the Wall Street Journal will testify in a separate hearing next week and the committee said it would be seeking interviews from other social media companies in regards to children’s mental health harms.

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