Facebook says Instagram is not ‘toxic for teens,’ despite damning WSJ report

Facebook responded almost two weeks after The Wall Street Journal reported Instagram was making body image problems worse for one third of teenage girls, according to Facebook's data. Pratiti Raychoudhury is Vice President and Head of Research at Facebook. Raychoudhury's Facebook Newsroom post claims that The Wall Street Journals description of internal research is inaccurate and blames all of it on a poor understanding of data the WSJ holds.
The Wall Street Journal published a story titled The Facebook Files on September 14. This is a series that revolves around a large cache of internal Facebook documents that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal. The September 14 article focused on data suggesting that Instagram had a very harmful effect on teenage girls, especially teens. According to the WSJ, Facebook knew about the dangers its products caused teenagers. The company made little effort to address the issues and has remained silent in public.

Facebook has not provided any details about the study cited in the WSJ. Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head for safety, will appear before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Thursday to address the allegations made in the story. She also plans to present a plan for a new Instagram to be used for children. Raychoudhury specifically mentions the hearing as the reason for his post.

Raychoudhury overlooks many of the issues in the WSJ article, including the fact that teens claim they are addicted to Instagram. Instead, she is focused on Facebook's own research. Raychoudhury claims that WSJ's harshest criticisms focus on a study with only 40 participants. This is a small sample size, especially when you consider that Instagram has over 1 billion users. Raychoudhury says the study was conducted to help teens form negative opinions about Instagram.

Raychoudhury also took issue with the WSJ regarding an internal Facebook slide that claimed we make teenage girls' body images worse. Raychoudhury repeatedly noted that body image was only one of 12 potential issues that Instagram could make more difficult for teenage girls. She writes that body image was the only issue where teenage girls reported having difficulty with it.

Raychoudhury, Instagram and Facebook have not released the data she repeatedly cites as part of her response to the Journals report. It is extremely difficult to evaluate The Wall Street Journals and Raychoudhury's interpretations of it without seeing the data. These problems aren't new to us, but we have heard them before.