Adam Mosseri, Facebook
Beck Diefenbach | Reuters
Instagram’s chief executive Adam Mosseri is expected to testify before Congress for the first time the week of Dec. 6, a spokesperson for Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., confirmed to CNBC.
“After bombshell reports about Instagram’s toxic impacts, we want to hear straight from the company’s leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,” Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, said in a statement. “I appreciate Mr. Mosseri voluntarily coming to the Subcommittee and hope that he will support specific legislative reforms and solutions, particularly in its immensely potent algorithms.”
The news, first reported by The New York Times, comes after Instagram has faced heightened scrutiny after former Facebook employee Frances Haugen released thousands of pages of internal documents from parent company Facebook (which recently rebranded to Meta) to the Senate, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several news outlets.
Among the findings in the documents was that Instagram had conducted research on how its platform impacted the mental health of young users and found negative effects on a portion of that userbase. For example, the research found that about a third of teen girl respondents said when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. It also found that among teens reporting suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the issue to Instagram.
The company has since downplayed its own research, claiming a small number of respondents can’t be extrapolated to the whole userbase. But many lawmakers argue the research is still enough to have shown Instagram it could have done more to combat the negative impacts of its platform for young users. Lawmakers pressured the company to back off plans to create a specialized app for kids. Instagram has since paused the effort.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified several times before Congress on topics including competition, content moderation and privacy in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. While Congress often seeks out top executives to testify, their deputies may have more hands-on knowledge about the topics lawmakers want to learn about. Some policy watchers have made note that Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, has also yet to testify before Congress while CEO of parent company Google Sundar Pichai has made several appearances.
“We continue to work with the Committee to find a date for Adam to testify on the important steps Instagram is taking,” Meta spokesperson Dani Lever said in a statement.