On September 30, 2021, the U.S. Senate Committee on Consumer Protection held a hearing with Antigone Davis, Facebook's head of security, who had to answer questions and listen to criticism from both Republican and Democratic senators. The reason for the meeting was a new article in a series of investigations published in The Wall Street Journal.

According to the WSJ, Facebook executives authorized the development of a children's version of Instagram to compete with TikTok and Snapchat, widespread among the respective age groups. The company's research team tried to figure out how to adapt the interface and content of the application to interest the new audience - not only teenagers 15-18 years, but also children under 13.

In this case, the company is well aware of the negative impact that its social networks have on young users, says WSJ. Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of security, disputed the committee's findings and the Wall Street Journal, saying the company was conducting more internal research on the issue, noted the Reuters.

It is just one of several articles about the world's largest social network that have appeared in America's leading business publication in recent weeks. In addition, on September 20, 2021, editor Brad Reagan met online in conversation with reporters Jeff Horwitz, Deepa Seetharaman, Justin Scheck, and Georgia Wells, who work in the WSJ bureau and have been covering Facebook for years.

They authored a series of articles based on extensive internal Facebook documents that outlined in several parts a range of flaws that cause harm on Facebook's platform and how the management of the company has failed to fix them.

The Senate hearing

"This research had a bombshell effect," Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said during the hearing, "It is conclusive evidence that Facebook knows about the harmful effects of its apps on children and that the company is hiding these facts and findings." The senators questioned Davis about what data Facebook has on its users under the age of 13, how much the company views teens as a potential new audience, and to confirm whether she knew that Instagram had made some kids think about suicide.

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Davis said that children under 13 are not allowed to use Facebook, adding that 0.5% of teens who participated in the company's research linked their "suicidal thoughts" to Instagram, which is below the statistics cited by the Wall Street Journal. Senator Ted Cruz demanded that Facebook publish a complete investigation regarding the connection between Instagram and youth suicide.

Is Instagram hurting teenagers?

"For years, Instagram ignored such phenomena as eating disorders. It wasn't until a 14-year-old girl named Molly Russell committed suicide that small steps began to be taken. Circumstances turned against her. Your own researchers called it a "perfect storm." The study found that Instagram still takes into account a person's insecurities, the susceptibility of girls. And they find themselves as if they are trapped in a trap that glorifies eating disorder and self-harm," said U.S. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal.

"There is strong evidence that Instagram and Facebook use reinforces dissatisfaction with one's body, especially when viewing attractive images of others, edited images, and Selfies, viewing content with certain hashtags.

This discovery was not the complaint of a disgruntled Facebook employee. It is an official study conducted by the Facebook team, which drew conclusions based on its research, the results of which have been communicated to high levels of Facebook management," Senator Blumenthal said in a statement.

Depression due to the low number of likes

Researchers from different universities in America conducted a seemingly independent study with more than a thousand 8th-9th grade public school teens from different states.

"A lot of people today know about the problem of bullying on social media: you're told you're fat, ugly, worthless. But what we found in our study may be more serious. The basic idea is that you are constantly comparing yourself to others, yet there is no way you can achieve that perfect picture like social media.

In our study, we asked children to create profiles, told them that they would interact with each other on social media for some time, and just put whose profile they liked and whose they didn't. And what we found was really shocking. If a teenager scored the second-highest number of likes, for example, he or she showed a set of symptoms typical of depression: severe anxiety and loss of self-esteem. These kids were never bullied, harassed, or bullied. They just got fewer likes than others," David Yeager, assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Texas, said of his study.

The second hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday, October 5, and will be attended by a Facebook employee whistleblower.

The whistleblower is expected to reveal her identity on Sunday in an interview on the famous "60 Minutes" program. It is known that the whistleblower was a woman who previously worked at Facebook and who left her post and took the full results of the extensive research with her.