Instagram chief Adam Mosseri is set to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on Wednesday. The hearing will focus on the impact social media has on teens and children, one of the few tech issues both Democrats and Republicans have found common ground on.
During prior hearings before the committee, senators raised concerns that apps like Instagram cause depression and anxiety and use addictive algorithms to keep teen users hooked.
During her October testimony before the subcommittee, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen pointed to documents she swiped from the company that showed some teen girls felt worse about their bodies after using Instagram. Still, she said, the platform proved too addictive for teens to leave.
“It’s just like cigarettes,” Haugen said during the hearing. “Teenagers don’t have good self-regulation. They say explicitly, ‘I feel bad when I use Instagram, and yet I can’t stop.’ ”
Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta (FB) has pushed back against the documents, with executives saying that Haugen has mischaracterized their content. But Haugen attempted to refute those claims during a hearing before the House Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications last week in which she laid out her technical experience and expertise.
“Working at four major tech companies that operate different types of social networks has given me the perspective to compare and contrast how each company approaches and deals with different challenges,” Haugen said in her testimony.
Ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, Instagram announced a series of new features designed to limit how often teens use the service.
Those include the ability for parents and guardians to view how much their teens use Instagram, and set time limits for them. Teens will also be able to notify their parents if they report someone on the service.
Instagram is also launching its Take a Break feature, which will notify users when they’ve been using the platform for a set period of time. Teens will also be able to delete files in bulk like photos, videos, likes, and comments; the company says it will also be stricter about what it recommends in search, suggested accounts, and hashtags for younger users.
Mosseri’s appearance also comes as Meta considers plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids under 13. Children must be over 13 to join Instagram. The social network says kids under 13 are already joining the service, and that a version for users their age would ensure they see content that is appropriate for their age group. The service would also have no ads.
Of course, a version of Instagram for kids would also let the social network create a relationship with younger users, all but ensuring they’ll move on to the full version of the app when they hit 13. There’s also no guarantee that young users will stop joining the full app simply because a version for kids exists.
In addition to scrutiny over its Instagram app, Meta is facing an FTC antitrust lawsuit over its practice of purchasing buying up smaller competitors.
More from Dan
Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at firstname.lastname@example.org over via encrypted mail at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.