San Francisco: On the eve of a Senate hearing, Instagram strengthened its protections for teenagers on Tuesday about whether it was “toxic” to young users.
“Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere,” chief executive Adam Mosseri said in a post.
“I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”
Instagram’s parent company Meta, which also oversees Facebook, is battling a serious reputational crisis after a whistleblower leaked reams of internal documents showing executives knew of their sites’ risks for teens’ well-being, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.
Mosseri is to testify Wednesday at a Senate committee hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users.”
“After bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company’s leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat.
Mosseri said that Instagram will be stricter about what it recommends to young users and prevent people from mentioning young people who do not follow them on the platform.
Mosseri said that Instagram will also begin to “push” young people to follow new topics if they have been following for a while, and advise them to take a break after spending a lot of time on the platform.
“If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, we’ll ask them to take a break from Instagram,” Mosseri said.
The break suggestion feature launched in Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, and will expand to other countries by early next year, according to Instagram.
The platform also introduced an educational hub for parents, to “help them get more involved with their teen’s experiences” and tools for them to set limits on how much time their children spend in the app, Mosseri said.
“Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along,” Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn said in a statement.
“My colleagues and I see right through what they are doing.”
Meta strongly opposes allegations that its platform is “toxic” to teenagers or puts profits above user safety.
Faced with pressure, the company previously announced that it would suspend but will not abandon the development of the Instagram version for users under 13 years of age.