The Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection grilled Instagram chief Adam Mosseri on Wednesday, alleging that the Meta property has ''fanned the flames'' of a teen mental health crisis through social media.
Meta is also the parent company of Facebook.
''We've heard some pretty powerful and compelling evidence about the dangers of Big Tech to children's health, well-being and futures,'' Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the chairman of the panel, said in his opening statement at a hearing Wednesday. ''Our nation is in the midst of a teen mental health crisis.
''Social media didn't create it, but it certainly fanned the flames and has fueled it.''
Mosseri defended his platform against the bipartisan concerns, asserting that Instagram is a ''positive force'' for teens.
''I recognize that many in this room have deep reservations about our company,'' he said. ''But I want to assure you that we do have the same goal — we all want teens to be safe online.''
Mosseri suggested the media leak of the internal company research about teen reactions to their social media platforms was meant to address the issue head-on and not expose the company for being at fault for any circumstances that might be tied to be damaging teen mental health.
''While I'm sure you know that we fully share the goal of protecting kids and teens online, what we aren't sure about is how the half-measures you've introduced are going to get us there,'' Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the ranking GOP member, told Mosseri.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, pressed Mosseri to publicly share internal research and algorithms with outside, independent researchers.
Mosseri agreed, but he would not commit to making such internal data sharing a legal requirement.
He added that teens having an online social media presence is inevitable today and that it would be a focus for Instagram to work to make any products that might be provided for teens as safe as possible.
''I'm running out of a patience with a company that has told us over and over again, 'we're so concerned about your children,''' said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. '''We're so concerned, we're commissioning a blue ribbon study to be done, or we're doing a review.'
''We've reached the point where we've realized some really bad stuff is happening,'' Lee added. ''You're the new tobacco, whether you like it or not. You've got to stop selling the 'tobacco,' in quotation marks, to kids. Don't let them have it. Don't give it to them.''
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