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US lawmakers grill Facebook on spiking mental health fears

Facebook Global Head of Safety Director, Antigone Davis, testifies remotely before a Senate hearing on possible harm to teens online

US lawmakers Thursday demanded pledges from Facebook to address escalating worries over its platforms’ impact on teens’ mental health, but a top executive instead offered assurances the sites are already safe.

Senators grilled the social media giant’s Antigone Davis in an hours-long Capitol Hill hearing called over damning reports that Facebook’s own research warned of the harm photo-sharing app Instagram can do to teenage girls’ well-being.

Davis, under questioning from Blumenthal and other senators, repeatedly said a Wall Street Journal series had selectively chosen parts of its studies to give an inaccurately dark vision of the company’s work.

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“On 11 of the 12 issues, teen girls who said they struggled with those issues were more likely to say that Instagram was affirmatively helping them, not making it worse,” said Davis, who delivered her testimony remotely.

– Facebook whistleblower –

A Facebook whistleblower is set to testify before senators on Tuesday, but it was not immediately clear if that person was also the source of the leaked documents.

Facebook argued a specially designed platform would allow some parental control in an online world already full of children, but critics called it a cynical strategy to hook the youngest users.

“Miss Davis will you commit that Facebook will not launch any platforms targeting kids 12 and under that include features… that allow children to quantify popularity?” asked Senator Ed Markey.

She added Facebook was looking into ways to share more of its findings, but that there were “privacy considerations” to take into account.

The company has been under relentless pressure to guard against being a platform where misinformation, hate and child-harming content can spread.

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