Facebook’s internal research found its Instagram platform contributes to eating disorders and suicidal thoughts in teenage girls, whistleblower says

Group of teenage girls using their cell phones
One of Facebook’s internal studies retrieved by whistleblower Frances Haugen found that 17% of teen girls say Instagram makes eating disorders worse. Adolescent Content/Ella Fields/Getty Images
  • Whistleblower Frances Haugen gathered internal documents from Facebook before submitting her resignation.
  • The company’s own research says that Instagram harms teenagers, Haugen said on “60 Minutes.”
  • Facebook bought the Instagram platform in 2012 for $US1 ($AU1) billion.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook’s internal research found that Instagram, which it acquired in 2012 for $US1 ($AU1) billion, makes eating disorders and thoughts of suicide worse in teenage girls, whistleblower Frances Haugen said in a “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday.

Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, gathered internal documents as she grew frustrated by the company’s prioritization of growth and user engagement over its negative impacts, The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to internal studies retrieved by Haugen, Facebook found that 13.5% of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse, and 17% of teen girls say Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

“And what’s super tragic is Facebook’s own research says as these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed. It actually makes them use the app more,” Haugen said. “They end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more.”

Facebook’s own research says that Instagram is “distinctly worse than other forms of social media” and harms teenagers, Haugen said.

The company announced plans last March to build a version of the app targeted specifically at children under 13. Last week, it announced its decision to pause the project.