As many readers will be aware, I do not have a Facebook account
. I go so far as blocking its related urls
on my computer. And I do also try to avoid spending time unnecessarily talking about Facebook. Regretfully it continues to be that overarching shadow that will take another decade or two to shake off my back. I’m currently helping a person evade ongoing abuse empowered by Facebook as well as other technology.
Today it’s hard to send something out without recognizing the hubbub Facebook has caused the past weeks and the better part of this year. I’ll just get this out of my system for now and sprinkle this issue with examples of the demons that appear to always be hanging on the tail of this beast.
Before I leave you to it, I do have some quick things to say about the senate subcomittee hearings
that took place yesterday following recent Wall Street Journal reporting.
The witness for this hearing was Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety at Facebook for the past seven years. You can read her opening statement (PDF)
. The hearing was very much focused on Instagram and the wellbeing of youths and children.
Davis made point of pushing this point of action:
From June to August of this year, we removed over 600,000 accounts on Instagram alone that were unable to meet our minimum age requirement.
As expected, the responses to questions were evasive and indeterminate, over and over bringing attention to how Facebook do not allow children under 13 on any platform. And yet… 600,000 accounts were recently removed on Instagram alone. A key indicator of a significant number of underage accounts. The real follow-up questions I would have expected here are of course how often accounts are removed, what percentage of underage accounts this actually represents, and for how long each account exists before being removed.
There were also clear efforts from Davis to downplay the economic motivation behind recruiting more tweens and teens to their platforms, which the members clearly refused to buy into. These members were having none of it, and I have to say it’s fascinating to see this type of bipartisan consensus.
In general I think the questions from committee members are getting better over the years (previous hearings have had their cringeworthy moments). I especially appreciate the attention that is being brought to the symbiosis of mental health and controversial digital design choices that we know so much more about today than just five years ago. This OECD report
, for example, outlines how mental health is often aligned with the abusive interaction with others – today enabled and exacerbated by online tools.
It is clear that there will be important regulatory steps taken in the United States over the next year or so to safeguard children on, and from, harmful online platforms. This is especially related to modernizing the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA
), with the addition of the Kids Internet Design and Safety
How the effects of these changes will propagate to other communities of burdened individuals, and to the rest of the world, remains to be seen.
Be good and take care,