In response to Klobuchar questioning, Facebook representative could not provide dates or immediate response
WASHINGTON – During questioning by U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) at today’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Internet Privacy and Manipulative Marketing,” Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis admitted knowing about internal research findings that Instagram worsens eating disorders for teenage girls before it was reported on in the press.
When pressed by Klobuchar about what steps she took to protect users when she learned of this research, Ms. Davis was unable to provide exact dates or specific actions to protect teens from harmful content on the platform.
Senator Klobuchar: Thank you very much. Ms. Davis, we now know that Facebook’s own research found that Instagram worsens body image issues for one in three teenage girls. Were you aware of those internal findings before the Wall Street Journal articles came out?
Ms. Davis: Senator Klobuchar, I’d just like to correctly characterize those findings. What those findings are are actually of teen girls who already expressed having that issue. Mind you, one in – one is too many.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, I have five minutes, and I appreciate that, and we'll put that on the record, but were you aware of the internal findings before the Wall Street Journal articles came out?
Ms. Davis: Thank you Senator Klobuchar. I and my team work on a weekly, maybe even sometimes daily basis –
Sen. Klobuchar: Could you just answer? I’m sorry, I was actually just asking a polite question. Were you aware? Could you answer yes or no?
Ms. Davis: Yes, I was.
Sen. Klobuchar: And what specific steps did you then take in response to your own research and when?
Ms. Davis: Senator Klobuchar, I don’t know that I can give you exact dates, but what I can tell you is that this research has fueled numerous product changes. So for example, in the context of eating disorders, we now have a dedicated reporting flow for eating disorder content. We also pop-up resources for individuals if they try to search for this content, that’s just two of the numerous changes –
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, but did you take – okay, I will then, what I will do is in writing ask the question, so we can find out the dates from when the research came out and what you did.
You were creating, Facebook was creating, a version of Instagram that targeted kids under thirteen. You announced this week that you are pausing that program. What specific criteria will you use to determine whether to unpause the plan, and who will make that decision?
Ms. Davis: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. I think what we intend to do at this point in time is to step back, to talk with more parents, to engage with more policymakers like yourself, to engage with more experts. What I do know, is that parents are – eight out of ten parents, in fact, for kids under the age of thirteen – are allowing their children onto sites between the ages of eight and twelve, and what we really want to do is ensure that they have –
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, but I asked who’s gonna make the decision? I so appreciate, if you were answering the question, I would let you go ahead, but I was asking who will make the decision about whether to unpause the work on developing that program.
Ms. Davis: Well, certainly it would be a collaborative team within the company, but it will be done with the guidance and expertise of our youth advisors, hearing from parents, hearing from policymakers like yourself, so –
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay. Alright. I know that’s guidance, but I was asking the identity of the person who will make the decision. That’s all. I will do that in writing again.
Ms. Davis: I don't have a single person. I’m sorry, Senator Klobuchar.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay. Last quarter, Facebook publicly reported that its advertising revenue per user in the U.S. and Canada, this is for a quarter, was $51 per quarter. Didn’t even compare with any other industrialized nation or any other country, they’re making so much money off of American users. I asked your colleague Steve Satterfield about that last week in a hearing in my Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, the hearing we had on big data. In his response, he said he wasn’t entirely sure whether the data included Instagram revenue. Does it include Instagram revenue, and specifically, does it include revenue from kids under 18?
Ms. Davis: Senator Klobuchar, that is not something I work on, but that is sort of not how we build products, particularly in relation to young people. We actually have always limited ads for young people, and much more recently we've reduced it so that, based on, actually, guidance from experts, that we don’t target young people other than on issues of age, gender –
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay, but again, I appreciate the – we’re good at filibustering in the Senate, too, but I am really concerned about the answer, because I think it’s specific, and again, I will do this in writing, I will publish the answers, but I’m just asking a fact. You guys published these quarterly revenues, we have them on different countries, right, how much money you make. We got that information. And so I’m trying to figure out if it includes Instagram, I’m trying to figure out if it includes kids, which I assume it does, and I will keep pursuing it another way. When you estimate the lifetime value of a user – you must do that, because I know your profit model and how it works now after years of taking on this monopoly-dominant platform issue – what do you estimate the lifetime value of a user is for kids who start using Facebook products before age thirteen?
Ms. Davis: Respectfully, Senator, that’s not how we think about building products for young people, we actually are quite focused on ensuring that parents have the kinds of supervisory tools that they need, I – that’s just, it’s just not the way we think about it, and it's certainly not the way I and my team think about it.
Sen. Klobuchar: Okay. Ms. Davis, that may be true about your team, but are you saying that Facebook, in developing products, has never considered, and you are under oath, has never considered the profit value of developing products when they make their decisions of how those products look?
Ms. Davis: Respectfully, Senator, we are a business, I am fully, fully aware of that, but what we are thinking about is how do we provide the best experience. If we have a very short-sighted version, without focusing on providing a better experience for people or a good experience, that’s just a terrible business model.
Sen. Klobuchar: Well, we’ll follow up in writing, I am out of time, I’ll try to come back if there’s a second round. Thank you very much.
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