Science & Technology

Facebook says it will ‘nudge’ teens away from harmful content

Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said Sunday that in an effort to make Instagram a safer place for teens, the company will implement some changes to the app.

The move comes after an avalanche of criticism following whistleblower Frances Haugen’s leak of internal documents, her subsequent appearance on TV and her date with Congress. Perhaps the most scathing of her comments has been that Facebook knew about the negative effect Instagram can have on young people’s minds but downplayed it.

“We’re going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that a teenager is looking at the same content over and over again, and it’s content which may not be conducive to their wellbeing, we will nudge them to look at other content,” Clegg said on CNN’s State of the Union show.

Clegg went on, saying that Instagram Kids would remain on hold, while at the same time Facebook will work on giving parents more control over how their teen children use Instagram. He said another feature that will be introduced shortly will ask users to “Take a Break” lest they find themselves spending an unhealthy amount of time on the app.

“We have no commercial incentive to do anything other than try and make sure that the experience is positive,” Clegg said. “We can’t change human nature. We always see bad things online. We can do everything we can to try to reduce and mitigate them.”

Meanwhile, Haugen tweeted today that she has accepted an invitation from Facebook’s Oversight Board to talk about what she learned when she worked with the company. The board, made up of academics, media specialists, and human rights advocates, assesses decisions Facebook makes on certain kinds of controversial content.

“Facebook has lied to the board repeatedly, and I am looking forward to sharing the truth with them,” tweeted Haugen. Right now the board is reviewing whether Facebook was “fully forthcoming” about its “cross-check” system, a program that gives millions of VIP users immunity from Facebook’s regular moderation practices. It only came to light after one of Haugen’s leaks.

Photo: Alexander Shatov/Unsplash

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