© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Instagram boss Adam Mosseri speaks during TechCrunch Disrupt 2016 in San Francisco, Calif., Sept. 14, 2016 when he was Vice President of Product Management for Facebook. REUTERS / Beck Diefenbach
By David Shepardson and Elizabeth Culliford
(Reuters) – Instagram boss Adam Mosseri called on Wednesday for the creation of an industry body to set best practices to keep young people safe online when he was grilled by lawmakers on his first appearance before Congress.
Speaking before a Senate panel, Mosseri said the industry panel should get input from civil society, parents and regulators to create standards for age verification, age-appropriate experiences and building of child safety devices.
Photo sharing app Instagram and its parent company Meta Platforms Inc, formerly Facebook (NASDAQ :), have undergone intensive scrutiny for the potential impact of their services on the mental health, body image and online safety of young users. Senator Richard Blumenthal said in his opening speech that the days of self-regulation were over.
Mosseri said companies like Instagram should adhere to the proposed industry body's standards to "earn" some of its Section 230 protections, referring to a key US Internet law protecting technology platforms from liability for user-posted content.
Legislator, who held a series of hearings on child safety online, urged Mosseri for more specific answers on the legislative reforms it would support on child safety online, including targeted advertising and transparency around the algorithms of Technology platforms.
Instagram has been suspending plans for a version of the app for kids since September as opposition to the project grows.
The break followed a report by the Wall Street Journal that said internal documents leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen showed the company knew Instagram could have harmful effects on teenage mental health.
In his speech at the hearing, Mosseri reiterated the company's earlier statements that public reporting misrepresents internal research. He made no commitments to make the hiatus on a kid-centric version of Instagram permanent.
He also promoted product announcements that Instagram made on Tuesday for the safety of young users, but Senator Marsha Blackburn called the updates "too little late," while Senator Blumenthal called the changes, such as the break from Instagram in his kids' app, as " Public relations "designated tactic."
Instagram, like other social media sites, has rules against children under the age of 13 joining, but said it knows it has users that age. In his testimony, Mosseri called for more age verification technology at the phone level, rather than on individual technology platforms, so that users have an "age-appropriate experience".
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