Instagram Head Adam Mosseri Proposes On-line Trade Security Panel

WASHINGTON – Instagram boss Adam Mosseri on Wednesday proposed a new industry body to set safety standards for social media platforms and told a Senate panel that it could help keep younger children safe from harm.

Mr Mosseri’s proposal met with a cold reaction from members of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Consumer Protection Committee, who said independent oversight and regulation will be needed to address the risks posed by powerful social media platforms to users can harm by addressing them with content that plays to their fears and anger.

“The time of self-regulation and self-regulation is over,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D., note), the chairman of the subcommittee.

Mr Mosseri was called to the committee after internal investigations by the company revealed that the app can exacerbate body image problems in some girls. The publication of the research in the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series led to several previous legislative hearings. Instagram is a unity of meta platforms Inc.,

which also owns Facebook.

In his opening address, Mr. Blumenthal said that the current mental health crisis among young people has been exacerbated by big tech. Recent hearings have shown that “Big Tech is actually fueling these flames with addictive products and sophisticated algorithms that can exploit and benefit from children’s insecurities and fears”.

Congressmen have compared the tactics of Facebook and Instagram to those of the tobacco industry. WSJ’s Joanna Stern examines what cigarette regulation can tell us about what might be big tech ahead. Photo illustration: / The Wall Street Journal

Mr Blumenthal also said he was working with the top Republican on the panel on new laws and urged Mr Mosseri to support a new legal requirement for social media companies to allow access to their algorithms and records.

In his prepared statement, Mr. Mosseri said that online safety “is an area that our company has focused on for many years and I take pride in the work we do to keep young people safe, to support and help young people in need Providing parents with tools to help their teenagers develop healthy and safe online habits, “Mosseri said in a prepared statement.

Mr. Mosseri endorsed an “industry body” that sets best practices on at least three crucial social media topics that attract younger users: how to check user age, how to design age-appropriate experiences, and how to add more parental controls.

He also advocated measures requiring tech companies to adhere to such industry standards in order to qualify for the current federal legal protection enjoyed by social media platforms.

Mr Mosseri also denied claims by some lawmakers that social media products are supposed to be addicting, saying he doesn’t think research shows Instagram’s products are addicting.

Prior to the hearing, Instagram said it would implement new tools to protect teenagers who use the app. These include prompts to suggest users take breaks, controls for parents to restrict their children’s use, restrictions on tagging or mentioning teen users, and the ability for users to delete their own photos, videos, and other content en masse.

However, these measures may not go far enough to satisfy lawmakers. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) Said the new Instagram tools are an attempt to divert attention from their flaws.

“This is a too little too late case because now there is a bipartisan dynamic here and in this House to address these issues that we are seeing at Big Tech,” Ms. Blackburn said at the hearing.

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Some lawmakers, including Ms. Blackburn, want Instagram to abandon plans to launch a kids-tailored version, similar to YouTube Kids and other products. Mr Mosseri announced a hiatus from these plans in September but said he still believes in the idea to protect teenagers who could use the app today despite their minimum age of 13.

He retained this position on Wednesday. “What I can assure you today is that, should we ever manage to create Instagram for 10-12 year olds, no child between the ages of 10 and 12 will have access to it without parental consent,” he said .

Senators said they are working on legislation to address the issues raised at the hearings, but so far the talks have not produced any broadly dynamic proposals.

Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), Who helped draft a child privacy law in the late 1990s, recently met with Republican senators, including Mississippi Mississippi Roger Wicker, the GOP senior trade committee member of the Senate, met to discuss a ban on targeted advertising, including those aimed at children, said an adviser to Mr. Markey.

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A hearing on legal solutions for “dangerous algorithms” that “manipulate user experiences” is to be held on Thursday in a separate subcommittee for communication policy of the Senate.

Wednesday’s Consumer Protection Subcommittee hearing is the last in a series that began in September after the Journal released the Facebook files. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower, appeared before the panel on October 5. The company has denied their characterization of its culture and decision-making, stating that it works hard to keep consumers safe and that many users benefit from its apps.

Lawmakers later interviewed TikTok executives, Snap. by ByteDance Ltd Inc.

‘s Snapchat and Alphabet Inc.’s

YouTube about child safety online.

Write to Ryan Tracy at ryan.tracy@wsj.com and John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com

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