NPR’s Leila Fadel speaks with Wall Street Journal reporter Jeff Horwitz about the Senate hearing where Facebook answered questions on the impact its products have on young people’s mental health.


Facebook’s global head of safety fielded tough questions on Capitol Hill today as senators accused the company of concealing data that confirmed Facebook and Instagram harms some young people’s mental health. Here’s Senator Richard Blumenthal.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: It has weaponized childhood vulnerabilities against children themselves. It’s chosen growth over children’s mental health and well-being, greed over preventing the suffering of children.

FADEL: The hearing comes after a Wall Street Journal investigation uncovered Facebook’s own research, which showed that the photo sharing app led to body image issues or worse in many teens. In response, Facebook has said the research was taken out of context. Jeff Horwitz is part of the team that reported that investigation, and he joins us now.

Hi, Jeff.


FADEL: So before we get started, I should note that Facebook is an NPR sponsor. But let’s start with what your investigation found about the impact of Facebook and Instagram on teens and mental health. What did you learn?

HORWITZ: So the company’s been looking at this for a number of years. And what they found is that for most users, Instagram is perfectly fine. However, for users who come to the platform with some level of mental vulnerability, which is to say a lot of teenagers, it can be really problematic. And in particular for teenage girls, it can make body image issues worse. And in fact, they found that there were – among users who they surveyed who had thought about harming themselves in the last month, that a non-trivial percentage – 6% in the U.S., 13% of British teenagers – trace the desire to kill themselves back to the app itself.

FADEL: Wow. Wow. And you’ve been following the hearing today. What’s been happening?

HORWITZ: Well, Facebook, last night in advance of this, released a couple of the slide decks that – from the researchers that we had cited in our reporting. We then released another four. And the interesting thing is Facebook kind of …….


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