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In response to a whistleblower’s testimony about Facebook’s impact on children, the Senate called social media executives to testify on problems pertaining to children’s safety online. Due to this, some businesses, including Instagram and Snap, have introduced new technologies aimed at preventing potential cybercrimes against children.
The Senate’s consumer protection subcommittee scrutinized Facebook on the subject, with questions coming from both Democrats and Republicans. A number of violent behaviors, including vandalism, challenges, bullying, and deceptive marketing, might be encouraged in children by using Facebook and other comparable apps, say lawmakers.
The testimonial that brought Congress into probing mode
A whistleblower testified before Congress less than a year ago, saying the social network company knew their application was having a bad effect on teenagers. A presentation of thousands of pages worth of study and documentation was made in addition to the testimonial.
“I am here today because I believe that Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy. The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people. Congressional action is needed. They won’t solve this crisis without your help,” Frances Haugen said, a 37-year-old product manager who worked for Facebook.
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“When we realized tobacco companies were hiding the harms it caused, the government took action. When we figured out cars were safer with seat belts, the government took action. And today, the government is taking action against companies that hid evidence on opioids. I implore you to do the same here,” she added.
The Senate was compelled by the statement to issue a request to other businesses to devise measures that mitigate the effects listed in the document Haugen supplied.
In response to the demand from Congress, Snapchat finally unveiled its parental control center on Tuesday. Though the idea was first proposed to Congress ten months ago, it wasn’t until recently that lawmakers began to put pressure on social media corporations that it finally became a reality.
It is referred to as the Family Center. Now that the capability is available, parents can see who their kids are chatting with on the app. The parent will see the contact’s name on the side of the conversation, but the actual conversation’s content won’t be viewable. Parents must create their own Snapchat accounts in order to use the feature, and they must have their kids’ accounts’ consent before connecting to them.
In one of the posts of Snap, the company said, “Family Center is designed to reflect the way that parents engage with their teens in the real world, where parents usually know who their teens are friends with and when they are hanging out — but don’t eavesdrop on their private conversations.”
Prior to the launch of Family Center, Snapchat already had security precautions in place, such as the need for minors to have mutual friends on their accounts in order to communicate with one another and the ban on having public profiles.
Snap has announced that the Family Center will soon have more features. In addition to allowing the parents access to the list of accounts their children follow, it may involve automatically notifying the parents if their children report an account.
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Instagram has released new capabilities to link parent accounts with their children’s accounts, joining Snap and other social media companies in this effort. Parents might use the capabilities to learn how much time their kids spend using the app, which accounts they follow, and who is following those accounts. However, Instagram promises that it will soon be made available outside of the US. It is now only available in the US.
More functionalities will be accessible soon, the company claims.
In order to increase parental oversight of their children’s use of social media platforms as well as access to their contacts and following, Meta, the parent company of Instagram, has established “Family Center.”