Following revelations by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen during last week’s Senate Commerce Subcommittee hearing, the company is now getting into damage control mode. Speaking to CNN’s State of the Union, Facebook Global Affairs VP Nick Clegg said the company is pitching a new Instagram feature known as “take a break.”
This feature would encourage teens to stop using the platform for a while. Clegg didn’t specify when the feature would roll out, according to Reuters (via). But it’s clear that this is a direct consequence of reports suggesting Facebook’s platforms are causing mental health issues among teens.
Clegg went on to say that Facebook will direct its teen users away from content within its apps that “may not be conducive to their well-being.” Again, there’s no clarity on when the company will bring this to its platforms.
This comes in the wake of a recent report revealing the toxic impact of Instagram on teens
The FB executive indicated that Facebook’s algorithms should be held accountable, possibly with regulations if required. The testimony from Haugen last week touched on a variety of these topics.
Haugen said Facebook knew how its algorithms could be divisive, yet didn’t do much to rectify these problems. She further asked Congress to bring reforms to the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230. This would make the company more liable for content driven by its algorithms.
While the “take a break” feature may offer some respite from exposure to harmful content, it won’t solve the problem of such content languishing on its platforms. Regulators are likely wary of this and may seek more from the tech giant in the wake of recent allegations.
To say that Facebook had a rough few weeks is an understatement. Apart from allegations of inaction from its former employees, the company also had to deal with a service outage. This impacted millions of users worldwide, including small businesses that depend on platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, or Instagram.
Facebook blamed the six-hour outage on configuration changes made to the “backbone routers” that direct traffic between its data centers. The company went on to say that this triggered a “cascading effect,” cutting off access to its services. Later, FB said it would slow down product development to conduct “reputational reviews” before pushing features.