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Facebook leak shows knowledge of Instagram’s harmful effect on girls – Women’s Agenda

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A leak from Facebook has revealed it withheld its own research on the harmful effects of Instagram for two years, including stats surrounding the damage to mental health that the social platform poses to teenage girls. 

Journalists at the Wall Street Journal reported seeing a slide from an internal presentation given within Facebook in 2019, showing their research that indicated the platform, which has roughly one billion monthly active users globally, is harmful for a large proportion of users, especially teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teen girls,” one of the slides presented

Another internal presentation inside Facebook, occurring in March 2020, said that “thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” the slides continued. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.” 

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These leaks show Facebook was aware that Instagram, which it acquired in 2012, had a series of diary studies, focus groups and online surveys conducted between 2019 and 2020, which showed the product’s harmful impact on the mental health of teenagers. 

In public however, Facebook executives have persistently minimised its negative impact on teenagers.

In March, Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg even declared that social media has positive mental health effects on its users. 

Adam Mosseri, the 38-year old the head of Instagram, said in May that he was aware of research that suggests its effects on teenagers’ mental health was probably “quite small”.

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One internal study noted that “aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” putting pressure on young people to share only the best moments in their lives and to ‘look perfect’ — all of which may draw teenagers into depression, lower self-esteem and eating disorders.

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One of the most troubling conclusions found within these internal reports was that among users who self-reported suicidal thoughts, 13 percent in the UK and 6 percent in the US connected them back to being on Instagram. 

The leaked studies replicate similar results found in a number of other studies showing the negative impact social media has on young people’s mental wellbeing. 

A 2017 report by YoungMinds and the Royal Society for Public Health pinpointed Instagram as having the most negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing of all the available social networks at that time. 

The charity’s chief executive, Emma Thomas, said despite possible beneficial aspects to social media, pressure exerted on young people also spiked.  

“Being surrounded by constant images of the ‘perfect’ life and seemingly perfect bodies can also have a big impact on how you feel about your own life and appearance, and it can be really hard not to compare yourself to others,” Thomas told The Guardian.

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 5Rights Foundation, a UK based charity that campaigns for changes to digital services to make them more suitable for young people, released a statement saying, “Facebook’s own research is a devastating indictment of the carelessness with which it, and the tech sector more broadly, treats children.” 

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“In pursuit of profit these companies are stealing children’s time, self-esteem and mental health, and sometimes tragically their lives … This is an entirely human-made world, largely privately owned, designed to optimise for commercial purposes – it does not have to be like this. It is time to optimise for the safety, rights and wellbeing of kids first – and then, only then – profit.”


The Guardian was sent a link to a blog post written by Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, where she said the  Wall Street Journal story had “focused on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light”.

“Issues like negative social comparison and anxiety exist in the world, so they’re going to exist on social media too,” Newton said.

“That doesn’t change the fact that we take these findings seriously, and we set up a specific effort to respond to this research and change Instagram for the better.”

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Back in September 2019, Instagram’s public policy manager, Emma Collins said she wanted Instagram “…to be a positive place for everyone that uses it and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media.”

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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