Speed Reads

'we make body image issues worse'

Facebook researchers reportedly found Instagram is 'harmful' for a 'sizable percentage' of young users

Leaked documents suggest Facebook is aware that Instagram is harmful for many young users, according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal

The Journal reported Monday that Facebook has in recent years conducted studies into the way the photo sharing app Instagram affects young users, and researchers "found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls." The report cites a 2019 internal slide summarizing the research, which states, "We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls." 

Another slide reportedly said that "teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression," and a presentation laid out how research found 13 percent of British users and six percent of American users who experienced suicidal thoughts said they traced these thoughts to Instagram. The researchers reportedly concluded that some of these issues are specific to Instagram because "social comparison is worse" on the platform. The Journal published another major Facebook story on Monday indicating that the platform has a "secret elite" of users who are routinely allowed to violate its policies without consequences. 

In an interview with the Journal, Instagram head Adam Mosseri suggested the "issues mentioned in this story aren't necessarily widespread" but that the "impact on people may be huge." He added that the leaked research "isn't dirty laundry" and that "I'm actually very proud" of it. Facebook has previously faced criticism after revealing plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who previously called on Facebook to release its research on the effect of its products on young people, argued the company is "taking a page from the textbook of Big Tobacco — targeting teens with potentially dangerous products while masking the science in public." Read more at The Wall Street Journal.