US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) today issued a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg “with concern about the growing body of evidence that social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, can have a harmful impact on the mental health of children and teenagers.”
The Senators are seeking internal research the company has produced on the subject, including any information it has on a potential relationship between the use of its products and “increased suicidal thoughts, heightened anxiety, unhealthy usage patterns, negative self-image, or other indications of lower well-being,” as well as evidence of addiction. The Senators also request Facebook make a senior executive available for a planned hearing in September.
On May 18th, Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, convened a hearing titled, “Protecting Kids Online: Internet Privacy and Manipulative Marketing”. Ahead of that hearing, Senator Blumenthal previously joined Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) and Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA3) and Kathy Castor (D-FL14) in sending a letter with 14 questions on the proposed Instagram for Kids service to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
At a Congressional hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee on March 25th, 2021, multiple Representatives pressed tech CEOs on questions around harms to children.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.