Facebook Inc. late Wednesday released two internal studies examining Instagram usage with teenagers’ mental health concerns. In the process, the company appeared to minimize and in some places criticize its own researchers’ work.
The studies were presented in a series of .pdf slides. The company released annotations alongside the slides, many of which called into question the validity of the findings and framing of the internal studies. Facebook twice called the headlines of the slides “myopic.”
In another slide, Facebook questioned the employees’ grasp of their own research objectives.
The company argued that an October 2019 slide titled “Teens who struggle with mental health say Instagram makes it worse” needed to be “clarified” to say: “Teens who have lower life satisfaction more likely to say Instagram makes their mental health or the way they feel about themselves worse than teens who are satisfied with their lives.”
“The annotations don’t reflect our views about the researchers who did these studies, who are valued members of our team,” Pratiti Raychoudhury, a Facebook executive who oversees its research, said in a statement. “The annotations are there to provide the public with more context about the internal research and limitations of the studies, which were always meant to inform internal conversations among teams who already had this context so they can improve our products and resources.”
The release of the studies comes weeks after The Wall Street Journal reported on the internal Instagram research that concluded that some teens felt worse after using Instagram. That investigation, part of the Journal’s Facebook Files series, sparked concern among Washington lawmakers, resulting in Thursday’s hearing.
Shortly after Facebook posted the research documents, the Journal posted a broader set of documents that helped form the basis for its reporting on Instagram and teens.