Facebook Trumpets Plan To "Nudge" Teens To Stop Fixating On Instagram

Following a whistleblower’s well-documented public accusations that Facebook prioritizes money over the public good, a Facebook executive went on the Sunday news shows to announce new controls meant to better protect teens using its platforms.

Nick Clegg, vice president for global affairs and communications, said the company will introduce new optional controls that parents of teens can use to supervise teens’ activities on the platforms.

In addition, the company will introduce two new features on Instagram — a focal point following leaked internal research showing that Facebook is aware of Instagram’s harmful mental effects on some teens.

"We're going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that the teenager is looking at the same content over and over again and it's content which may not be conducive to their well-being, we will nudge them to look at other content," Clegg said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

In addition, "we're introducing something called, 'take a break,' where we will be prompting teens to just simply just take a break from using Instagram," he said.

Clegg also said that “external researchers” have found that Instagram is a positive experience for the “overwhelming majority” of teenagers, and reiterated Facebook’s claim that is has spent more than $13 billion on making its platforms safer in recent years.

Under pressure from regulators and the public, Facebook recently announced that it will “pause” its development of Instagram Kids.

Grilled by news show hosts about the accusation by whistleblower/former Facebook executive Frances Haugen that Facebook withdrew safety measures after the 2020 election, even as it was being used to help organize the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Clegg said he can't say whether Facebook's algorithms helped amplify election fraud lies behind the Jan. 6 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

He reiterated that Facebook is open to government regulation. Facebook’s algorithms “should be held to account, if necessary, by regulation so that people can match what our systems say they’re supposed to do from what actually happens,” he said on CNN.

Following Clegg’s interviews, critics including Josh Golin, executive director of marketing watchdog Fairplay, expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of “nudging” teens to pause use of Instagram or view different content. They also noted that teens often set up secret social media accounts to avoid parental supervision.

On Friday, three Democratic lawmakers wrote to the Federal Trade Commission, urging the agency to monitor whether Facebook, Google and other tech companies are honoring their new rules to better protect privacy for platform users under 18.

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