Less politics on Facebook and a new feature on Instagram designed to encourage teenagers to take a break and spend less time on social networks, but above all to avoid dangerous contents for their psychological well-being. These are the measures announced by the tech giant after the controversy arising from the investigation of the Wall Street Journal and the testimony of the computer engineer before Congress Frances Haugen on the impact that the consumption of some content published on these platforms has on the mental health of young people.
The American newspaper had told about the negative psychological effects emerged from the data of an internal research of the company. Documents that had been turned over to the editorial team by Haugen, who had started working for Facebook in 2019 before resigning in April of this year: during an interview with the broadcast 60 Minutes, the developer had said that the Menlo Park company would developed algorithms that amplify the so-called hate speech and accused it of putting profits before people’s well-being. Statements that had been rejected by the co-founder of the social network, Mark Zuckerberg, who called the allegations “illogical”.
The Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg explained what the latest measures consist of, although for the moment everything is still in the design phase and a release date of future features has not been announced. More specifically, a new technology will allow teens to stay away from content that could be harmful to their mental health: “When our systems see that a teenager is viewing a certain type of content repeatedly, and it is content that could be harmful to their mental health. harm him, we will push him to look at a different content ”.
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The manager then added that not only the tech company has pulled the handbrake on the Instagram Kids project, a platform for younger people, but plans to build one new feature named Take a break, which should encourage boys and girls to take a break from social media images.
Come remembered by The Verge, these are new features whose idea had already been presented by the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, in a post published last September, which also talked about the commitment to develop tools that allow parents to supervise their children’s accounts.
At the same time, Facebook intends to reduce the presence of content related to politics in the News Feed: in justifying the new course, Clegg explained that the company has decided to follow up on a request that came from members, who wish to “see more friends and less politics”. A choice that follows the decision to remove the exceptional security measures implemented by the technology giant for the last US presidential election: temporary measures, because they were introduced only for that particularly polarizing situation, and which also ended up weighing on the publication and performance of harmless and legitimate videos and content.
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The manager reiterated the platform’s efforts to counter disinformation, but evasively replied to a question from CNN journalist Dana Bash, who asked him if the algorithms amplified the rumors of the people who participated in the assault on the Capitol on January 6 last: he explained that he could not answer with a yes or a no, “since we have thousands of algorithms and millions of people who use them”.