The head of Instagram was interviewed on the Recode Media podcast this week following a damning series of articles in the Wall Street Journal based on leaked internal Facebook documents. In the interview with host Peter Kafka, Mosseri attempted to defend the negative effects his platform has on its users by comparing social media to cars. Some people are just going to get run over, and that's the price we all pay. "We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large cars create way more value in the world than they destroy," argued Mosseri. "And I think social media is similar."
The features within Instagram that cause teenage girls to develop negative feelings about their body image may be baked into the very core of the platform, researchers and former employees have said in the wake of new revelations that the company did not disclose what it knew about its impact on young users. Facebook, which owns Instagram, has known for years that the platform is harmful to the mental health of many teenagers--particularly girls--but has kept internal research about the issue private, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Tuesday. In response to the Journal report, a bipartisan group of Senators said they would launch an investigation into what Facebook knew about Instagram's effect on teenage users. Instagram said it was proud of the research, and that it is constantly improving how its app works to protect users from harm. But researchers and former Facebook employees say Instagram's problems may be inherent to the platform and therefore almost impossible to fix.
Top Facebook officials were aware that Instagram, the popular photo-based social media platform that it owns, can have a negative impact on mental health, body image and more for teenagers, particularly teenage girls, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Researchers who work for the social media giant found that some of the problems were specific to Instagram and not social media as a whole for teens, according to the Journal. "Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse," researchers shared in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook's internal message board, reviewed by the Journal. "Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves." In a study of teens in the U.S. and the U.K., Facebook found that over 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling "unattractive" traced that feeling back to the platform.
A dress worn this week by Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), which bore the message "tax the rich," set off a wave of debate over how best to address wealth inequality, as Congress weighs a $3.5 trillion spending bill that includes tax hikes on corporations and high-earning individuals. The debate coincides with the ongoing pandemic in which billionaires, many of whom are tech company founders, have added $1.8 trillion in wealth while consumers have come to depend increasingly on services like e-commerce and teleconference, according to a report released last month by the Institute for Policy Studies. In a new interview, artificial intelligence expert Kai Fu-Lee -- who worked as an executive at Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Apple (AAPL), and Microsoft (MSFT) -- attributed the rise of wealth inequality in part to the tech boom in recent decades, predicting that the trend will worsen in coming years with the continued emergence of AI. "We can just already see all the internet companies," says Lee, the co-author of a new book entitled "AI 2041: Ten Visions for Our Future." "Without AI, they probably would be only worth half of what they're worth, because AI helped them monetize." "When it's simultaneously making a small number of people ultra-rich and making many people jobless," he says.
Instagram knew that its app was making teenage girls feel worse about their bodies, internal documents from the company allegedly reveal. "Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse," the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook's internal message board, reportedly seen by The Wall Street Journal. "Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves." More slides included similar messages: "We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls," said one slide from 2019. Another read: "Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups".