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Former Facebook Contractor Testifies About Harmful Effects of Instagram on Teens

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Contractor Sends Alarming Email to Mark Zuckerberg

On the same day whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress about the harms of Facebook and Instagram to children, a former contractor at the social media giant, Arturo Béjar, sent an alarming email to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Béjar outlined a "critical gap" between how the company approached harm and how users, especially young people, experience it. He expressed concern about the impact of harmful comments and the need for better tools to address harassment and unwanted experiences.

Testimony Highlights Meta's Knowledge of Harmful Effects

Béjar testified before a Senate subcommittee about social media and the teen mental health crisis, shedding light on how Meta executives, including Zuckerberg, were aware of the harms Instagram was causing but chose not to make significant changes. He emphasized the importance of Meta changing its approach to policing its platforms, particularly in addressing harassment and unwanted sexual advances, even if they don't clearly violate existing policies.

Meta's Lack of Action Raises Concerns

Béjar believes that Meta's executives knew about the harm teenagers were experiencing but chose not to take necessary actions. He argued that this lack of action raises concerns about trusting the company with children's safety. Béjar called for reforms that prioritize user safety and well-being without significantly impacting Meta's revenue or profits.

Bipartisan Push for Child Online Protection Regulations

Béjar's testimony comes amid a bipartisan effort in Congress to adopt regulations aimed at protecting children online. Lawmakers are pushing for transparency about the harms caused by social media platforms and providing support for teens. The goal is to develop metrics that track instances of harm experienced by users and to hold social media companies accountable.

Meta Faces Lawsuits Over Harm to Young People

Just two weeks prior to Béjar's testimony, dozens of U.S. states filed lawsuits against Meta, claiming that the company knowingly designs features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children to its platforms, contributing to the youth mental health crisis. The lawsuits seek to hold Meta accountable and address the negative impact on young people's well-being.

Béjar stressed the importance of bipartisan legislation and the involvement of experts to ensure transparency and support for teens. He called on social media companies to develop metrics to evaluate and track instances of harm experienced by users, leveraging the power of data to improve platform safety.

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