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Following the statement made by a whistleblower who reported on the impacts of Facebook to children, Senate summoned executives of social media applications to answer questions relating to the protection of children in cyberspace. This has prompted several companies like Instagram and Snap to launch new tools protecting children from possible cybercrimes.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection grilled Facebook on the matter. According to the lawmakers, Facebook and other similar applications may be used to instigate violence to children like vandalism, challenges, bullying, and manipulative marketing.
Less than a year ago, a whistleblower stood in front of Congress and testified that social media giant was aware that they are negatively impacting teenagers with the application. The testimony was made along with the presentation of thousands of pages of research and documents.
“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,” said Frances Haugen, a product manager who previously worked for Facebook.
“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,” the 37-year-old whistleblower said.
The statement compelled the Senate to call on other companies and create steps to mitigate the effects mentioned in the document submitted by Haugen.
On Tuesday, Snapchat finally launched its parental control center as response to the call made by Congress. However, the project has already been introduced to Congress 10 months ago, and it has only come into fruition after the recent pressures exerted by lawmakers to social media companies.
The tool is called the Family Center. Through the feature, parents could now see who their children are communicating with in the application. The actual content of the conversation will be inaccessible, however, the name of the contact will appear on the side of the parent. To access the feature, parents should make their own Snapchat account and ask for permission from their children’s account to connect them through the tool.
Snap said in a post, “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.”
Before Family Center, Snapchat already had features that assured safety for its users including a requirement for teens to have mutual friends with an account before they can engage into contact with each other, as well as the prohibition from having public profiles.
According to Snap, more features will be added to the Family Center soon. It may include automatic notifications to parents if their children report and account as well as giving the parents the access to the list of accounts their children follow.
Along with Snap and other social media companies, Instagram has also rolled out new tools to connect parents’ account with their children. The tools would help parents understand the amount of time their children spend on the application as well as the accounts their children follow – and who are following them. It is still only available in the US though but Instagram pledges that they will make it available outside the US soon.
According to the company, more features will be available soon.
Meta, Instagram’s parent company, launched “Family Center,” the program designed to heighten the supervision of parents to their children’s usage of social media applications as well as access to their contacts and following.
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