Report: FTC Investigates Facebook over Disclosures of Platform's Negative Effects on Teens
According to recent reports, staffers at the Federal Trade Commission have begun looking into disclosures that Facebook’s internal research identified negative effects from its products. In particular, company researchers found Instagram to be extremely toxic for teenage girls, with one researcher writing: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”
The Wall Street Journalreports that FTC staffers have begun investigating disclosures that Facebook’s internal company research identified negative effects from its products. Officials are reportedly investigating if the Facebook research documents indicate that the company violated a $5 billion settlement it made with the FTC in 2019 over privacy concerns.
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Mark Zuckerberg swallows a giggle. (Drew Angerer /Getty)
Breitbart News has reported extensively on the “Facebook Files” series from the Wall Street Journal which made a number of damning claims about the tech giant based on a series of internal company documents.
The Wall Street Journal claimed that Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm saw a major change in 2018 that appeared to promote outrageous and negative content on the platform. When informed of this, top executives including CEO Mark Zuckerberg were allegedly hesitant to solve the issue.
The internal documents also appear to reveal that the tech giant Apple threatened to remove Facebook from its App Store in 2019 following a report from BBC News that detailed the human trafficking taking place across the social media platform.
One of the most damning reports was titled “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show,” in which the Journal claims that Facebook is aware that its photo-sharing app Instagram can have a negative effect on the body image of young women. In which the WSJ wrote:
“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, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.
“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
When asked by the WSJ about a possible FTC investigation, the company said that it is “always ready to answer regulators’ questions and will continue to cooperate with government inquiries.”
Facebook has previously claimed that leaked research documents have been misinterpreted and that the company has “invested heavily in people and technology to keep our platform safe.”
Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) the chair of the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, noted that the FTC believes that Facebook may have purposefully withheld information from the agency in relation to its internal research.
In an interview, Blumenthal said: “I think the FTC should be really angry if Facebook concealed this material from them as it did from us in the Congress and the public.” Blumenthal claimed that he and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questioned Facebook in August about the effect of its products on children and internal research it had conducted “and they evaded our questions.”
Read more at the Wall Street Journal here.