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Instagram CEO to testify before Congress for the first time

The social network has faced allegations that it worsens mental health issues for young people.

The hearing will look into "bombshell reports about Instagram's toxic impacts," Sen. Blumenthal says.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri will testify before Congress for the first time about how the social media app is trying to keep young people safe, amid criticism that the photo and video service is harming the mental health of teens. 

"These are important issues, but we have shared goals. We all want young people to be safe when they're online," Mosseri, who has three children, said in a video posted on Twitter last week. 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security will hold the hearing on Dec. 8, at 2:30 p.m. ET. The hearing, titled Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users, will look into "bombshell reports about Instagram's toxic impacts," Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday.

Sen. Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, has been hosting a series of hearings about child safety.

"We want to hear straight from the company's leadership why it uses powerful algorithms that push poisonous content to children, driving them down rabbit holes to dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer," Blumenthal said in a statement Wednesday. "I appreciate Mr. Mosseri voluntarily coming to the subcommittee and hope that he will support specific legislative reforms and solutions, particularly in its immensely potent algorithms."

Blumenthal started hosting the hearings after The Wall Street Journal published a story about how Instagram's internal research showed the app is "toxic" to teen girls, worsening body image issues for some young people. It will be the fifth bipartisan hearing led by Blumenthal and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, on addressing the danger children face online from social media.

"Instagram's repeated failures to protect children's privacy have already been exposed," Blackburn said Wednesday. "Now it is time for action. I look forward to discussing tangible solutions to improve safety and data security for our children and grandchildren."

Instagram is part of Meta, formerly known as Facebook. The social network has said that the research is being mischaracterized and that Instagram also connects young people to family and friends and in some cases helps them deal with body image issues or had no impact. Instagram has been working on new tools intended to improve mental health, including a feature to remind people to take a break from the platform.

In September, Facebook's global head of safety, Antigone Davis, appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security in a hearing led by Blumenthal. The Senate panel also held a hearing in October about online child safety with executives from Snapchat, TikTok and Google-owned YouTube.

US lawmakers aren't the only ones scrutinizing Instagram. Last month, a group of state attorneys general said it's investigating whether Meta violated state consumer protection law by promoting Instagram to children and teens despite knowing of the service's harms.