Most Tech Policy Press podcast listeners will by now be well familiar with the Facebook Files, a series of Wall Street Journal articles revealing internal research and information from Facebook that show the company aware of a variety of serious problems on its platforms that affect people’s lives and our politics. This week, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Head of Safety, was brought before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security to discuss the revelations in the data about Instagram’s effects on children and teens, and in particular their mental health. Just before the hearing, the Wall Street Journal published the documents it reviewed, which detail the relationship between the platform and body issues, teen depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.
We’ve got a two part show today where we’ll hear from two experts responding to the testimony yesterday, and talking about what can be done to make change. First, to put a critical lens on the testimony, I spoke to Amanda Lenhart, a quantitative and qualitative researcher at Data & Society who studies how technology affects human lives, with a special focus on families and children. She has spent many years examining how adolescents and families use and think about technology. Most recently, as deputy director of the Better Life Lab at New America, Amanda focused on family-supportive policies that enable balance between the personal and the professional. She began her career at the Pew Research Center, studying how teens and families use social and mobile technologies. I recommend her report, The Unseen Teen: The Challenges of Building Healthy Tech for Young People, which takes the reader inside tech companies building products for young people, and exposes the challenges and contradictions of doing that work.
Then, to get a better sense of some of the legislative reforms that may help address the types of problems exposed in the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, I spoke to Ariel Fox Johnson, Senior Counsel for Global Policy at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that advocates around issues at the intersection of media, technology, and the lives of children. Ariel’s work focuses on enhancing family privacy rights, strengthening students’ educational privacy, and promoting robust consumer protections in the online world.
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.