- Instagram makes teen girls feel worse about themselves, Facebook researchers reportedly found.
- Facebook repudiated the findings of its own research in a blog post published over the weekend.
- Then, Instagram announced it is pausing work on its Instagram Kids app.
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Facebook has spent the past week doing damage control after a series of Wall Street Journal reports revealed damning evidence that the company wasn’t acting on some of the biggest issues plaguing its services, including the ongoing dissemination COVID misinformation and preferential treatment for some elite users.
Facebook’s own internal research found teen girls’ negative self-image is made worse by using Instagram, according to the Journal.
“32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” an internal Facebook document reviewed by the Journal said. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
Now, the company is now pausing the rollout of an iteration of its photo- and video-sharing app geared toward kids under 13.
But Instagram boss Adam Mosseri told the “Today” show that the pause is not a result of the WSJ reporting. “I think it’s impossible to say,” Mosseri said.
When asked about the approximately one-third of teen female respondents whose negative self-image was exacerbated by Instagram, Mosseri disputed that, too.
“I don’t believe that’s exactly what the research said,” he said.
That’s in line with other statements from Facebook in response to its own research being publicized by the WSJ. Despite the research coming from within the company, Facebook has issued at least two lengthy rebuttals.
The first, on September 19, was written by Facebook’s top PR executive, Nick Clegg. He characterized the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on Facebook’s research as, “deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do,” and said it, “conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.”
The second, on Sunday, provided a line-by-line repudiation of the Wall Street Journal report written by Facebook head of research Pratiti Raychoudhury. “It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls,” Raychoudhury said. “Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse.”
Notably, Facebook’s responses don’t cite factual inaccuracies with the characterizations in the Wall Street Journal report, but instead choose to read the data from a different, more positive perspective.
“Body image was the only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas,” Raychoudhury said. “But here also, the majority of teenage girls who experienced body image issues still reported Instagram either made it better or had no impact.”
Rather than looking at the 32% minority of teen girls who said Instagram made their body image issues worse, Raychoudhury instead directs attention to the fact that the majority experienced no impact or made them feel better. While it is an accurate reading of the data, it is an intentionally positive re-reading of the same data.
Despite those rebuttals, it’s clear the company is attempting damage control on its latest public relations nightmare by holding off, for now, on Instagram Kids – whether it admits that or not.
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