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Congress will investigate claims that Instagram harms teens

Two top lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee’s panel over consumer protection said they were launching a probe into Facebook after The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the company was aware of the harm Instagram can cause to teenage girls.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) announced their investigation into Facebook in a statement released Tuesday. The senators said that they were in touch with “a Facebook whistleblower” and would seek new documents and witness testimony from the company related to the reporting.

“It is clear that Facebook is incapable of holding itself accountable. The Wall Street Journal’s reporting reveals Facebook’s leadership to be focused on a growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens,” the lawmakers said. “When given the opportunity to come clean to us about their knowledge of Instagram’s impact on young users, Facebook provided evasive answers that were misleading and covered up clear evidence of significant harm.”

House lawmakers also criticized Facebook over the Journal’s new reporting, and Republicans even issued a new amendment to the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation seeking to address tech’s effects on teens. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) introduced the measure that would direct the Federal Trade Commission to go after “unfair and deceptive acts or practices targeting our children’s mental health and privacy by social media.” The amendment failed.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, said in a tweet, “Big Tech has become the new Big Tobacco. Facebook is lying about how their product harms teens.”

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A group of Democrats, including Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Lori Trahan (D-MA), penned a letter to Facebook Wednesday calling on the company to abandon its plans to launch an Instagram app for kids in light of the report.

“Children and teens are uniquely vulnerable populations online, and these findings paint a clear and devastating picture of Instagram as an app that poses significant threats to young people’s wellbeing,” the lawmakers wrote.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Verge.