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The Wall Street Journal: Facebook faces bipartisan Senate probe after revelation that company was aware of Instagram harms to young users

Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn said they would launch a probe into Facebook Inc.’s internal research on the way its Instagram photo- and video-sharing service affects young users, prompted by a Wall Street Journal investigation that showed the company knew the app was harmful to some in that group.

The Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security Subcommittee on Tuesday also said that they were in touch with someone they identified as “a Facebook whistleblower” and “will use every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it—including seeking further documents and pursuing witness testimony.” In the statement, the senators said, “The Wall Street Journal’s blockbuster reporting may only be the tip of the iceberg.”

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Facebook’s research, which was conducted over the past three years, found that the app was especially damaging to some teenage girls. According to one slide from 2019, reportedly seen by the Journal, researchers concluded, “we make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” Teens surveyed by the company also blamed Instagram for increases in anxiety and depression, according to the research.

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executives have frequently played down Instagram’s negative effects in public and withheld internal findings about their research. In March, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company was “early in thinking through” a version of Instagram tailored for children under 13.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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