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Meta’s leaked internal research on child and teen mental health isn’t the smoking gun we think it is, according to a top scientist

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  • Filtered out Goal research on adolescents mental health It’s not the smoking gun we think it is, said Andrew Przybylski.
  • The scientist told Insider that it could not be considered “damning proof” of the harmful effects of Instagram.

When Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked an internal Instagram investigation into the platform’s effect on adolescent mental health, legislators seized on what appeared to be a damning statistic: “Thirty-two percent of adolescent girls said that when they felt wrong with their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. “

But Professor Andrew Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute, believes that research is not the smoking gun that politicians believe it to be.

In an interview with Insider, Przybylski, an experimental psychologist who specializes in social media, said the leaked research amounted to little more than extremely preliminary work and was far from definitive proof that Instagram is bad for teenage girls. “If you were the one in charge and you had a giant social media platform, this is like a scoping investigation. This is the beginning of the investigation,” he said.

“Much of this work would not be reviewed as a bachelor’s thesis,” he said. To have the research regarded as “irrefutable proof” of the harmful effects of Instagram is “insane if you are a responsible scientist,” he added.

Przybylski said that Meta’s research relied entirely on self-reports from Instagram users, meaning it was not enough to draw conclusions about the actual effects of social media on mental health.

He drew a parallel with smoking. “People’s opinions about whether smoking is good for them are not used to make any health inferences,” he said.

However, Przybylski said that he does not rule out the possibility that Instagram and other social media platforms have an adverse effect on the mental well-being of teenagers Y kids.

“It’s about inviting Facebook to lead the way, to be a partner in a maturing process Sciences“, He said.” And that doesn’t mean locking everything into proprietary computing environments. “

Przybylski is the co-author of an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg asking the CEO of Meta to open the doors of his company to scientists so they can examine his research on mental health. The letter has more than 300 signatories.

The open letter to Zuckerberg raised concerns that Meta’s internal research could be dangerously inadequate for dealing with problems as serious as the mental health of children and adolescents. “We do not believe that the methodologies seen so far meet the high scientific standards required to responsibly investigate the mental health of children and adolescents,” the letter says.

This week, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri appeared before Congress to testify about child safety on the platform.

When asked at a Senate hearing on Wednesday about opening up the Meta data to scientists, Mosseri said researchers should have “regular access to meaningful data on social media usage across the industry.” but it fell short of promising full transparency, citing privacy concerns, The Wall reported Street Journal.

In response to the open letter, a Meta spokesperson said: “This is an industry-wide challenge. A survey last month suggested that more American teens are using TikTok and YouTube than Instagram or Facebook, so we need an industry- great effort to understand the role of social networks in the lives of young people “.

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