Instagram’s CEO said Wednesday he plans to launch a chronological feed next year instead of an algorithm-based one. The issue of online safety for children was the topic of his first appearance before Congress.
A top Instagram executive has been pressed by lawmakers to reveal more information about their platforms’ algorithms and how they curate and recommend content to their users. Adam Mosseri is the latest executive to be pressed by lawmakers to be more transparent.
According to Whistleblower Frances Haugen, internal Instagram documents about Instagram’s approach to younger users have been leaked. The potential impact of Instagram’s services on young people’s mental health, their body image, and safety have brought Instagram and its parent company Meta Platforms Inc, formerly Facebook, under intense scrutiny.
A Senate panel heard that Adam Mosseri has been working for months on a chronological feed option for the app and plans to launch it in early 2022. It is an effective development for the service, which presently uses algorithmic ranking to build personalized feeds based on user preferences.
The committee pressed Mosséri for specific recommendations around kids’ online safety, including targeted advertising, during the hearing. Senator Richard Blumenthal said self-regulation had reached its end in his opening remarks.
Mosseri suggests establishing a Senate panel to make recommendations as to what best practices to use to keep young people safe online. Civil society, parents, and regulators should be part of the group, which should develop standards on age verification, age-appropriate experiences, and parental controls.
This company head said that some of the Section 230 protections should be earned by tech companies through compliance with the proposed industry group, which refers to a U.S. law that shields tech platforms from liability for content posted by users.
Growing opposition to Instagram’s children’s version has led to its suspension since September.
In a report in the Wall Street Journal, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen revealed that internal documents showed the company knew teens could have detrimental mental health effects from Instagram.
At the hearing, Messeri echoed previous statements by the company that its public reporting mischaracterized its internal research. A version of Instagram focused on kids did not go on permanent pause.
Instagram‘s announcement regarding young users’ safety was well received by him on Tuesday. Senator Marsha Blackburn described the changes as “too little too late,” while Senator Richard Blumenthal described them as a “public relations blunder.”
Senator Blackburn’s team created a fake Instagram account for an under-16-year-old that had a public profile, despite Instagram’s decision to make accounts for users under 16 private by default. Mosseri states that the web version of the website had overlooked this loophole, and it has been corrected.
Instagram, like other social media sites, prohibits children under 13 from joining, but it knows this age group of users. Mosseri called for age verification technology that works at the cellular level rather than the platform level, so users will have an “age-appropriate experience.”