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Instagram head compares social media to cars because although ‘people die’ they create ‘more value than they destroy’

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The social media platform has unveiled anti-bullying tools (Getty)
The social media platform has unveiled anti-bullying tools (Getty)

The head of Instagram Adam Mosseri has compared social media to cars, saying that while people may be harmed the good outweighs the bad.

“We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large, cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri said Wednesday on the Recode Media podcast, as reported by CNBC, “And I think social media is similar”.

Host of the podcast, Peter Kafka, asked if the Facebook-owned photo app should be limited or regulated if there is a chance it could be doing harm to users.

“Absolutely not, and I really don’t agree with the comparison to drugs or cigarettes, which have very limited, if any, upsides,” Mosseri said. “Anything that is going to be used at scale is going to have positive and negative outcomes. Cars have positive and negative outcomes”.

Mosseri said that he thinks care is needed, as “regulation can cause more problems,” but continued that he does “think we are a big enough industry that it’s important, and we need to evolve it forward”.

His comments were criticised by former Facebook executive Brian Boland, who has revealed insight into the inner workings of the social media company before.

“We also have regulations and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for cars. Maybe @mosseri should read Unsafe At Any Speed?”, he tweeted.

The news comes after a series of stories published by the Wall Street Journal, which revealed that Facebook knew Instagram made teenage girls feel worse about themselves, but that young users are ‘addicted’ to the app.

Facebook also “routinely made exceptions for powerful actors” using a program called XCheck, the Journal reported, exempting them from the platform’s rules. A 2019 review, reportedly seen by the Journal, said that Facebook is “not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” and called the company’s actions “a breach of trust”. It added: “Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences.”

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Journal said criticism of XCheck was fair, but added that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding.”

He also said Facebook has been accurate in its communications, and was phasing out whitelisting as a practise. “A lot of this internal material is outdated information stitched together to create a narrative that glosses over the most important point: Facebook itself identified the issues with cross check and has been working to address them,” he said.

In a blog post about The Wall Street Journal’s findings, Instagram said: “Social media isn’t inherently good or bad for people. Many find it helpful one day, and problematic the next. What seems to matter most is how people use social media, and their state of mind when they use it.

“Many said Instagram makes things better or has no effect, but some, particularly those who were already feeling down, said Instagram may make things worse. In the research world, this isn’t surprising or unexpected. Issues like negative social comparison and anxiety exist in the world, so they’re going to exist on social media too. 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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