Biden Calls To Hold Big Tech Accountable For “National Experiment” On Children For Profit

US President Joe Biden called out the big tech giants pertaining to their effect on mental health, especially children. This relates to the released so-called Facebook Papers which essentially said the social media platform’s algorithm gave weight to “maximum engagement over user safety.”

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Biden included mental health as one of the pillars of his four-point platform for the year, called Unity Agenda for the Nation.

“Children were also struggling before the pandemic. Bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media,” the 79 year-old president said.

To support this agenda, he then referred to whistleblower Frances Haugen who was one of the president’s guests at the address. In September 2021, Haugen disclosed the Facebook Papers to the Securities and Exchange Commission, essentially summarizing documents and research studies that point to Meta Platforms (NASDAQ: FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s policies in running the social networking sites.

“[We] must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit,” Biden added.

Biden then called the US Congress to elevate its oversight on the big tech firms, asserting that it is time “to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”

In the Facebook Papers first reported on the Wall Street Journal, the documents contradict Zuckerberg’s pronouncements that the company wasn’t designed to persuade users in spending more time on the platforms. The company has studied the effects of policy changes on user engagement but it is taking time in making efforts to reduce misinformation and hate speech on its sites.

In one example, the documents estimated that the company removes less than 5% of hate speech on Facebook, contradicting Zuckerberg’s testimony before the US Congress that the social media giant removes 94% of the hate speech before a human user reports it.

In a primer published by Washington Post on the Facebook Papers, the platform started in 2017 giving “angry” emoji reactions five times the weight in the algorithm compared to “like” reactions. It was only last year that Facebook leveled the algorithm for the reactions, leading to users getting less misinformation and “disturbing” content, according to data scientists.

More importantly, it was found out that the company downplayed studies saying that Instagram made body image issues worse in one out of three teenage girls.

Source: Meta Platforms

“While the headline in the internal slide does not explicitly state it, the research shows one in three of those teenage girls who told us they were experiencing body image issues reported that using Instagram made them feel worse — not one in three of all teenage girls,” the company said in its website in September 2021.

But this study does not exist in a vacuum. Data from time management app Moment shows almost 63% of Instagram users report being miserable, a higher share than for any other social network.

In addition, a 2021 study by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore shows that users who spend most of their time on Facebook are more prone to suffering from depression.

For its part, Meta Platforms has implemented a series of measures to “make emotional health a priority,” most notably establishing an emotional health resource center. It has partnered with World Health Organization, mental health advocates, and clinicians to launch a trove of content about mental wellness, and it has launched “Let’s Talk” stickers on Messenger.

Product mock of Emotional Health resource center on Facebook
Source: Meta Platforms

In a series of tweets, Haugen reiterated the call to hold Meta Platforms accountable for the “addictive [and] harmful nature of their products.”

“They are buying their profits on the backs of our kids’ mental health,” Haugen tweeted.

According to the statistics by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 45,979 Americans who died by suicide while around 1.20 million attempted to commit suicide. The highest increase in suicide rates has also been observed in Americans between 15 to 24 years old.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Information for this briefing was found via Vox, Washington Post, and White House. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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