WASHINGTON – Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, will testify before a panel in the Senate on Wednesday afternoon to defend the social media app from growing bipartisan outrage over reported injuries to young users.
This will be Mr. Mosseri’s first appearance before the congress. He is the highest-ranking official from Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook and the parent company of Instagram, to testify to lawmakers after a whistleblower leaked internal research that said Instagram had a toxic effect on some teens.
Lawmakers are expected to grill Mr. Mosseri about the research, which showed that a third of teenage girls said the app made them feel worse about their body image. He will probably also be questioned about the app’s underlying technology and whether it sends young users into rabbit holes with more dangerous and harmful content. Republican and Democratic lawmakers say they will also confront him about the safety of young users, including the company’s efforts to keep underage users away from the site.
“Instagram’s repeated failures to protect children’s privacy have already been revealed to the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the lead Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee on Consumer Protection, who is holding the hearing. “Now is the time for action. I look forward to discussing concrete solutions to improve security and data security for our children and grandchildren. “
The hearing begins at 14.30. Here’s what you need to know before the hearing.
Who is Adam Mosseri?
Mr. Mosseri, 38, is a longtime director of Facebook and is considered a close lieutenant of the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He joined the company in 2008 as a designer and gradually rose through the ranks to run News Feed, a key feature of the Facebook app.
In October 2018, he was appointed head of Instagram, weeks after the sudden dismissals of the app’s founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
Why focus on Instagram?
This is the fifth hearing of the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee on Child Protection Online, and leaders of TikTok and YouTube have already appeared. But Instagram became the focus of lawmakers after a former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, leaked internal research that showed some disturbing findings about the toxic role Instagram plays in the lives of young users, especially teenage girls.
Richard Blumenthal, chairman of the subcommittee and a Democrat in Connecticut, said his office had received hundreds of phone calls and emails from parents about their negative experiences with Instagram. One parent told how his daughter’s interest in fitness on Instagram led the app to recommend accounts for extreme diet, eating disorders and self-harm.
Mr. Blumenthal is based on the algorithms that drive such recommendations.
“We want to hear directly from the company’s management why it uses powerful algorithms that send toxic content to children who drive them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make the platform safer,” he said.
What does Congress want to achieve?
Lawmakers, including Mr. Blumenthal and Ms. Blackburn, has proposed stronger data protection rules to protect children, greater enforcement of age restrictions and the ability for young users to delete information online.
How can Mr Mosseri answer?
On Tuesday, Instagram announced new safety features for children. Mr. Mosseri will likely focus on the new tools, such as a “pause” feature to limit time spent online. (TikTok has a similar feature that appears when users spend too much time on the app.)
Mr. Mosseri is also expected to focus on more positive research showing that Instagram can also help young users create relationships online and feel less lonely. And he will express support for certain regulations, such as stronger child welfare rules.