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Instagram’s Adam Mosseri takes a hot seat before the Senate committee

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WASHINGTON – Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, will testify before a Senate panel on Wednesday afternoon to protect the social media app from growing bipartisan outrage over the reported damage to young users.

It will be Mr. Mosseri’s first appearance before the congress. He is the senior official with Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, to testify to lawmakers after a whistleblower leaked internal investigations that said Instagram was toxic to some teenagers.

Legislators are expected to anger Mr Mosseri about research showing that a third of teenage girls say the app makes them feel worse about their body image. He will also likely be asked about the underlying technology of the app and whether it sends young users down rabbit holes with more dangerous and harmful content. Republican and Democratic lawmakers say they will confront him with the safety of young users too, including the company’s efforts to keep underage users off the site.

“Instagram’s repeated failures to protect children’s privacy has already been exposed in the US Senate,” said Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, the senior Republican on the Senate Trade Committee Consumer Protection Committee that holds the hearing. “Now is the time to act. I look forward to discussing specific solutions to improve security and data security for our children and grandchildren. “

The hearing starts at 2:30 p.m. Here’s what you need to know before the hearing.

Mr. Mosseri, 38, has been a long-time manager at Facebook and is considered a close deputy to the company’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He joined the company as a designer in 2008 and gradually rose to run the news feed, a central feature of the Facebook app.

He was named head of Instagram in October 2018, weeks after app founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger suddenly resigned.

This is the fifth hearing for the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee on Protecting Children Online, and executives from TikTok and YouTube have already appeared. But Instagram moved into the focus of lawmakers after a former Facebook employee, Frances Haugen, leaked internal research that revealed some troubling results about the toxic role Instagram plays in the lives of young users, especially teenage girls.

Richard Blumenthal, chair of the subcommittee and a Connecticut Democrat, said his office had received hundreds of phone calls and emails from parents about their negative experiences with Instagram. A parent shared how their daughter’s interest in fitness on Instagram led the app to recommend accounts about extreme dieting, eating disorders, and self-harm.

Mr. Blumenthal has dealt with the algorithms that force such recommendations.

“We want to hear directly from the top management about why it uses powerful algorithms that leak toxic content to kids and drive them down rabbit holes in dark places, and what it will do to make its platform safer,” he said.

Legislators, including Mr. Blumenthal and Ms. Blackburn, have proposed stricter privacy rules to protect children, stronger enforcement of age restrictions, and the ability for young users to delete information online.

On Tuesday, Instagram announced new safety features for children. Mr Mosseri will likely focus on these new tools, such as a “take a break” feature to limit the online time. (TikTok has a similar feature that shows up when users spend too much time on the app.)

Mr Mosseri is also expected to focus on more positive research showing that Instagram can also help young users build relationships online and feel less lonely. And he will speak out in favor of some regulations, such as stricter data protection regulations for children.

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