In a series of stories called ‘The Facebook Files,’ The Wall Street Journal detailed occurrences when the company admitted to its negative impact on teens, exempted high-profile users from some of its rules, and made changes to its algorithm that made the platform ‘angrier’
Over the last few weeks, The Wall Street Journal published a series of reporting on Facebook FB, -4.16% called “The Facebook Files.” The report detailed occurrences when the social media giant admitted its photo-sharing platform Instagram negatively impacts teen girls’ mental health, allowed a few high-profile users to circumvent some of the platform’s rules and made changes to its algorithm that made Facebook “angrier.”
WSJ’s reporting revealed that Facebook routinely ignored internal research that showed these flaws about the company.
On Saturday, Facebook responded to the reporting in a blog post titled, “What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong,” and called nearly all of the allegations “mischaracterizations.”
“The truth is that research into the impact social media has on people is still relatively nascent and evolving, and social media itself is changing rapidly. Some researchers argue that we need more evidence to understand social media’s impact on people,” Vice President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg wrote in the post. “Each study has limitations and caveats, so no single study is going to be conclusive. We need to rely on an ever-growing body of multi-method research and expert input.”
Clegg went on to say that these stories “conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.”
WSJ cited internal company documents such as research reports, management presentations and former company executives in its reporting.
The potential negative impacts of social media on mental health are nothing new, as several studies show that time spent on these platforms can disrupt sleep and expose teens to bullying and unrealistic views of other people’s lives. According to internal research from Instagram, it’s especially prevalent among teenage girls.
“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the Journal reported. “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.”
Last week, MarketWatch outlined what social media companies like Facebook, Twitter TWTR, 1.75% and TikTok are doing to combat mental health issues on their platforms.
On Tuesday, Facebook wrote another blog post touting how many resources it has dedicated to positive change in privacy, security and misinformation. Facebook claims it removed “more than 20 million pieces of false COVID-19 and vaccine content.”
In the past, we didn’t address safety and security challenges early enough in the product development process. Instead, we made improvements reactively in response to a specific abuse. But we have fundamentally changed that approach. Today, we embed teams focusing specifically on safety and security issues directly into product development teams, allowing us to address these issues during our product development process, not after it,” the post read.
Facebook’s stock is down 3.47% today during Monday’s trading, but up 42.18% over the last 12 months compared to a 32.35% gain for the S&P 500 SPX, 1.06% over the same period.