Instagram Moves to Head Off Criticism, Debuting Teen Protections Prior to Senate Hearing


Ahead of a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday (Dec. 8) aimed squarely at Instagram and its potential negative effects on teen users, the social media giant announced a set of measures on Tuesday (Dec. 7) designed to increase privacy and limit dangerous content seen by teens on its platform.

In a Dec. 7 blog post, Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said new measures include changes to content recommended to teens, and a new feature called ‘Take A Break’ to limit screen time. “If someone has been scrolling for a certain amount of time, we’ll ask them to take a break from Instagram and suggest that they set reminders to take more breaks in the future,” he noted.

Take a Break is live in the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia as of Tuesday (Dec. 7), and will be rolled out worldwide next year. Mosseri also said that next March, Instagram will introduce tools for parents to monitor and control how much time kids are spending in the app.

Instagram is also disabling the ability to tag people unless they are in a teen’s network of connections. Additionally, it will begin testing a “bulk delete” feature in January that will allow people to remove video, images, comments and likes deep into their previous social media posts.

“While available to everyone, I think this tool is particularly important for teens to more fully understand what information they’ve shared on Instagram and what is visible to others, and to have an easier way to manage their digital footprint,” Mosseri said.

CNET reported that “Mosseri’s testimony comes at an uncomfortable moment for Instagram and other Facebook services. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager turned whistleblower, leaked a trove of internal research to Congress and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission before leaving the company in May.”

Haugen’s disclosures included the fact that Instagram and parent Meta (formerly Facebook) have known internally for some time that certain Instagram content can be “toxic” — particularly for teenage girls, worsening issues of body dysmorphia and even causing suicidal ideation.

See also: Are Things Actually Getting Better at Meta?

Social Is on the Hotseat as Senators Set up Fake Accounts

Scheduled to testify before a hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Instagram and Reforms for Young Users,” Mosseri will face U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chair of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security. This is the third such hearing convened by Blumenthal, an outspoken critic of social media generally, and of Instagram specifically of late. reported in October that Blumenthal’s office created a fake Instagram account in the guise of a teen girl, and Blumenthal later stated that “within a day, its recommendations were exclusively filled with accounts that promote self-injury and eating disorders. That is the perfect storm that Instagram has fostered and created.”

During the Oct. 26 Senate hearing, top executives of TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube were grilled about teen content safety on their respective services.

In a blog post, advocacy group The Center for Online Safety said the firms support regulation, “but gave non-committal answers when asked about specifics and tried to position themselves far from the policies of Facebook and Instagram. It was Snapchat and TikTok’s first time in a hearing, and at times it was comical to hear them say how much ‘less bad’ they were than Facebook.”

See also: EU’s Digital Market Act Clears Hurdle, Would Set Restrictions on Social Media Platforms