Instagram Unveils New Youth Protections in Advance of Senate Hearing

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Suggesting the changes were to improve a platform that already works hard to protect young people, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri on Tuesday blogged the news of some “new tools and features” to make young people “even safer” on the social media site.

The blog post gave Mosseri something to defend himself with when he faces a congressional gauntlet Wednesday (Dec. 8) during a hearing in the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee. The session was called by Democrats who are none too happy with Instagram or parent company Meta (formerly Facebook) over in-house research suggesting the company knows its platform can be harmful to young people.

Mosseri said Instagram will take a “stricter approach” to what it recommends to teens, and will prevent people from tagging or mentioning teens that are not among their followers.

One knock on Instagram is that its recommendations reinforce issues like eating disorders through its recommendations. Mosseri said Instagram will be “nudging” teens toward other topics if they are dwelling on a topic for “a long time,” though it does not say how long.

He said Instagram early next year will also be launching its first tools to help parents “get more involved” in their teens’ Instagram “experiences.” That will include allowing them to see how much time their kids spend on the site and set time limits.

But Mosseri accentuated the positive even as he was talking about eliminating the negative, using language like “continuing” and “keeping,” which signals the company is not ceding its critics any ground.

“Every day I see the positive impact that Instagram has for young people everywhere,” he wrote. “I’m proud that our platform is a place where teens can spend time with the people they care about, explore their interests and explore who they are. I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is co-chairing the Instagram hearing, told CBS News Tuesday she thought Instagram was taking "half measures," and only because "they know regulation is coming." ■ 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.