Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri took questions from the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection Wednesday on new efforts the social media company is making to protect kids who use the app. The hearing came a day after Instagram introduced a previously announced feature that urges teenagers to take breaks from the platform. The company also announced other tools, including a chronological feed and parental controls, due to come out early next year. Mosseri said the tools are aimed at protecting young users from harmful content.
“We’re also using technology to understand if people are above or below the age of 18 so that we can create a more age appropriate version of Instagram for them,” Mosseri said at the hearing. “For example, adults can no longer message people under the age of 18 that don’t follow them. And as of this week, we announced that people can no longer tag or mention teens that don’t follow them as well.”
In his prepared remarks, the Instagram CEO called for an industry body that will determine best practices on three topics regarding kids on social media:
How to verify age
How to design age-appropriate experiences
How to build parental controls
“This body should receive input from civil society, parents, and regulators to create standards that are high and protections that are universal,” Mosseri said. “I believe that companies like ours should have to adhere to these standards to earn some of our Section 230 protections.”
During the hearing, senators from both parties were united in condemnation of how Instagram has handled having kids on its app. Subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) dismissed Instagram’s new efforts as “a public relations tactic.”
“I believe that the time for self-policing and self-regulation is over,” Sen. Blumenthal said. “Self-policing depends on trust. Trust is over.”
Senators repeatedly tried to get Mosseri to commit to provide Congress with full results of its internal research and its computer formulas for ranking content. They also tried to get him to support legislation that would curb the ways in which Big Tech deploys social media for kids. The CEO responded mostly with general endorsements of openness and accountability, calling Instagram an industry leader in transparency.