Facebook claims that Instagram is not “toxic for teens” opposing a WSJ report


Image Courtesy: Facebook

Instagram made body image problems worse for one in three teenage females according to Facebook’s own research, over two weeks after The Wall Street Journal reports. Pratiti Raychoudhury, Vice President and Head of Facebook Research, courtesy of Salvo. Raychoudhury’s article in the Facebook Newsroom states that the depiction of internal research by the Wall Street Journal is “not correct” and accuses it of misinterpreting the information the WSJ holds.

The Wall Street Journal released on 14 September an article in The Facebook Files, a series of stories on a huge trove of internal, journal-leaked Facebook materials. The 14 September work focused on evidence suggesting that Instagram had a very negative influence on adolescents – especially teens. The WSJ stated that the Facebook business was fully aware of the harm its products had done to teens and “has done nothing to deal with and publicly play down these problems.”

The details of the research quoted from the WSJ were evaded on Facebook. However, Antigone Davis, global head of security at Facebook, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday to respond to the article allegations and plans on a new “Instagram for children.” In particular, Raychoudhury cites this hearing as the basis for the position.

Raychoudhury dismisses several of the concerns mentioned in the WSJ storey, such as adolescents claiming to be hooked to Instagram. Instead, she devotes her efforts to undermining Facebook’s own studies. According to Raychoudhury, many of the WSJ’s most damning accusations are based on a research with only 40 participants. By any standard, that is a minuscule sample size, especially when considering a platform with over 1 billion users. Raychoudhury states that the little survey was “intended to feed internal debates regarding adolescents’ most unfavourable impressions about Instagram.”

Raychoudhury also takes issue with the WSJ’s use of an internal Facebook presentation that states “we make body images worse for one in every three teenage girls.” Raychoudhury emphasises that the body image issue is only one of 12 potential concerns that Instagram might exacerbate for adolescent girls. “In comparison to the other 11 categories, young females who reported suffering with the issue thought Instagram made it worse,” she adds.

Unfortunately, neither Facebook, Instagram, nor Raychoudhury have made available the exact data that she references repeatedly in her rebuttal to the Journal’s reporting. It’s impossible to judge The Wall Street Journal’s or Raychoudhury’s interpretations of the data without seeing it for ourselves. However, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of these issues.