Instagram 'aware of' teen girls' mental health harms

Occurred: September 2021

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Facebook has been aware for years that teenagers blame Instagram for increased levels of anxiety and depression, has made little effort to address the issue, and plays it down in public, according to leaked documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal

Internal research, presentations and emails by the social network reveal Facebook knew its photo-sharing app Instagram has harmful effects on many of its young users, particularly teenage girls. Over 40% of Instagram’s users are 22 years-old or younger.

US Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn said they 'will use every resource at [their] disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it.'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded by saying that he did not reckon 'the research is conclusive' on the extent to which social media impacts children’s declining mental health. 

According to Forbes, the social network has refused many requests from members of Congress to share its research on children’s mental health, arguing it is 'kept confidential to promote frank and open dialogue and brainstorming internally.'

Operator: Meta/Facebook  
Developer: Meta/Facebook
Country: USA
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Moderate content
Technology: Content moderation system
Issue: Ethics; Hypocrisy  
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing; Legal

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: September 2021
Last updated: June 2023