Sen. Blackburn criticizes Facebook over youth mental health concerns


WASHINGTON (WJHL) – Sen. Marsha Blackburn criticized Facebook Tuesday in a Senate subcommittee hearing on the tech giant’s impact on child and teen mental health.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security heard testimony from former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.

The subcommittee called the hearing after reports that said Facebook knew it and Instagram, which Facebook owns, knew the product could be damaging to youth mental health.

“66 percent of teen girls on Instagram and 40 percent of teen boys experience negative social comparisons. This is Facebook’s research,” Blackburn said in her opening testimony. “Facebook prioritizes profit over the wellbeing of children and all users.”

In a blog post, Blackburn said the site’s explore platforms, which formulate endless feeds tailored to the users’ interests, create depression and anxiety for kids.

Facebook only allows age 13 and up to create accounts, but Blackburn says the platform is not staying diligent on keeping kids out. Facebook said prior to the hearing that it had deleted 600,000 accounts of individuals it determined were underage.

“It seems to me that there’s a problem if you have 600,000 accounts from children who ought not to be there in the first place,” Blackburn said.

The senator said Facebook violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act because it still collected data on those accounts. The act required platforms like Facebook to obtain parental consent before collecting personal data from users under 13.

Blackburn said Facebook is not interested in making changes to its policies because she thinks that would hurt the company’s profits.

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