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WASHINGTON, DC (WOWK) – A group of US senators has sent a letter to Facebook expressing concern that the social media site Instagram may be promoting eating disorders among its young users.

U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV.), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) say their concerns stem from testimony Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen gave to the Senate Commerce Committee. They pointed out that during this testimony, Haugen said she believed “Facebook knows they’re driving younger users to anorexia content.” The senators say they are concerned about the impact of this allegation, particularly on adolescent girls and girls.

“Ms. Haugen’s complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also indicate that Facebook has additional information about its impact on eating disorders that Facebook has not shared with policymakers, parents or the public,” the senators said.

Senators Capito, Klobuchar and Baldwin are advocates for Americans’ access to eating disorder treatment services. The three senators also co-sponsored the bipartisan Anna Westin Act. This bill was introduced in 2015 and included provisions to increase training and education about eating disorders and provide parity in insurance coverage for residential eating disorder treatment. The bill’s provisions were signed into law as part of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016.

Capito’s office says the Anna Westin law was named for Anna Westin of Minnesota. She was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 16. Although Anna’s condition was considered urgent, her family was told she had to wait for their insurance company to ‘certify’ her treatment, which delayed and limited the treatment she received. She died aged 21 after battling the disease for five years.

“The stakes here are incredibly high – studies have shown that eating disorders have one of the highest death rates of any mental illness. We have long fought to ensure that Americans can access services treatment for eating disorders, but more needs to be done to protect our children from exposure to content on Facebook and Instagram that glorifies and promotes eating disorders,” the senators said in the letter.

The senators said in the letter that they were asking for a response by October 27, 2021.

Below is a copy of the full letter:

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Mosseri:

We write to express our concern about the dangers of Instagram, especially for young people who suffer from eating disorders. Instagram has a wide reach among teenage girls and girls, which means harmful content posted on its platform can be particularly dangerous.

We are well aware of the dangers of these diseases. We were all three the leaders of the Anna Westin Acta bill that was signed into law in December 2016 and increased training and education on eating disorders and provided parity for insurance coverage of residential treatment for eating disorders.

In her testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, Frances Haugen told us that “Facebook knows they are driving young users towards anorexia content.” Other efforts found that Instagram not only failed to take action on accounts that promote eating disorders, but the platform actively promoted them. Thanks to the whistleblower’s disclosures and testimony, we know that internal Facebook research has shown that Instagram makes eating problems worse for 17% of teenage girls who use the platform.

Ms Haugen said Facebook’s own research indicates Instagram is “significantly worse than other forms of social media” in its harm to teens. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to this type of harmful content, and studies indicate that eating disorders often begin in the early teens and twenties. Ms. Haugen’s complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also indicate that Facebook has additional information about its impact on eating disorders that Facebook has not shared with policymakers, parents or the public. .

The stakes here are incredibly high – studies have shown that eating disorders have one of the highest death rates of any mental illness. We have long fought to ensure that Americans can access eating disorder treatment services, but more needs to be done to protect our children from being exposed to content on Facebook and Instagram that glorifies and promotes eating disorders. food.

We ask that you answer the following questions by October 27, 2021:

(1) What measures, both automated and manual, do you use on Instagram to detect accounts or content that promote unhealthy eating and other eating disorders?

(2) How many Instagram accounts have you deleted in the last year for promoting bad eating habits?

(3) How many Instagram users do you think have seen content promoting unhealthy eating in the past year? Please provide estimates for all users and separately for teenage or younger users.

(4) What resources do you provide for Instagram users who have been shown harmful content promoting unhealthy eating?

(5) Please describe any additional information you have collected about the relationship between any of your applications and eating disorders affecting your users. This includes any academic research, market research, informal study, user interview, survey, strategy document or other document.

(6) Internal Facebook research found that teens self-report “inappropriate ads aimed at vulnerable groups” as one of Instagram’s harms.

  • What were the top 100 ads seen by teenage Instagram users last year?
  • For each advertisement, please describe the content of the advertisement, including videos, images and text included in the advertisement, as well as data on the reach and number of viewers of the advertisement.