According to Facebook’s own statistics, Instagram made body image concerns worse for one in three teenage females, as revealed by The Wall Street Journal over two weeks ago. Pratiti Raychoudhury, Facebook’s Vice President and Head of Research, fires the first volley. Raychoudhury’s article on Facebook’s Newsroom argues that The Wall Street Journal’s portrayal of internal research is “not true,” and he blames it all on a faulty interpretation of data the WSJ possesses.
The Wall Street Journal published an article on September 14 as part of The Facebook Files, a series of stories based on a huge cache of internal Facebook documents leaked to the publication. The article from September 14 focused on evidence that showed Instagram was having a particularly negative impact on teens, particularly teenage girls. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook was well aware of the negative effects its products had on teens, and the corporation “has taken limited attempts to solve these concerns and plays them down in public.”
The findings of the research referenced by the WSJ have been kept under wraps by Facebook. However, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday to face questions about the story’s allegations and plans for a new “Instagram for kids.” The hearing is the reason for the post, according to Raychoudhury.
Many of the concerns mentioned in the WSJ story are ignored by Raychoudhury, including the fact that adolescents profess to be hooked to Instagram. Instead, she devotes her time and energy to undermining Facebook’s own studies. According to Raychoudhury, the WSJ’s most damning accusations are based on a research with only 40 participants. By any standard, that’s a minuscule sample size, but it’s especially so when you’re talking about a platform with over 1 billion members. Raychoudhury states that the little survey was “intended to feed internal debates regarding adolescents’ most unfavorable impressions about Instagram.”
Raychoudhury is particularly offended by the WSJ’s reference to an internal Facebook presentation that states “we make 1 in 3 adolescent females’ body impressions worse.” Raychoudhury emphasizes that the body image issue is just one of 12 concerns that Instagram might exacerbate for adolescent girls. “In comparison to the other 11 areas, body image was the only one where young females who reported suffering with the issue claimed Instagram made it worse,” she adds.
Sadly, neither Facebook, Instagram, nor Raychoudhury have made public the exact data that she references in her rebuttal to the Journal’s story. It’s impossible to judge The Wall Street Journal’s or Raychoudhury’s interpretations of the data without seeing it for ourselves. But, as you may be aware, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of these issues.