Bulletins

Instagram announces controls for teens ahead of Congressional hearing

The controls include Take a Break warnings and nudges to stop teens from dwelling on a certain topic.

The Instagram logo on a dark background

Instagram head Adam Mosseri will appear before Congress Wednesday.

Image: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

Instagram announced a suite of new controls and features aimed at teens Tuesday, one day before Instagram head Adam Mosseri is set to testify before Congress on the app's impact on younger users. According to a blog post, the company will begin limiting the types of recommendations it makes to teen users, nudge those users away from topics they're dwelling on and urging young users in six countries to take a break from the app.


In March, Instagram also plans to launch parental controls where guardians can monitor the time teens spend on the app and set time limits.

"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," Mosseri wrote in the post. "I want to make sure that it stays that way, which means above all keeping them safe on Instagram."

These announcements follow Instagram's decision to pause its plans to release a version of the app for kids, in light of the Wall Street Journal's reporting on the impact Instagram has on vulnerable teens' mental health. Congress has since held a series of hearings on the Journal's reporting, which was based on whistleblower Frances Haugen's disclosures. In October, Facebook's head of safety, Antigone Davis, testified before the same Senate subcommittee that will question Mosseri on Wednesday.

The changes Instagram is instituting address some of the critiques that have come in up prior hearings. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety and data security, had expressed concern about how Instagram drives young people down rabbit holes toward eating disorders and self-harm. The new nudges and changes to recommendations aim to divert teens away from problematic topics.

But so far, lawmakers seem unimpressed with Instagram's changes. Following the announcement, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who is ranking member on the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, product safety and data security, accused the company of trying to "shift attention from their mistakes."

"This is a hollow 'product announcement' in the dead of night that will do little to substantively make their products safer for kids and teens," Blackburn said in a statement.

It's not unusual for Meta, formerly Facebook, to come to Congress with a series of remedies teed up as talking points. But before Mosseri gets to talk about what the company plans to do, lawmakers want him first to answer for what the company failed to do until now.

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