Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, to testify before US Senate on child safety online

The Instagram logo on a smartphone
"Parents have a right to know the truth about the safety of Instagram." Photo credit: Getty Images

The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, will testify before the US Senate for the first time as lawmakers continue to examine child safety online and in particular, the role of Meta (formerly Facebook) in it.

According to the New York Times, Mosseri is expected to appear before a panel in early December, in a hearing led by Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Mosseri posted a video on Twitter confirming he'd be talking with Congress "soon", saying "these are important issues, but we all have shared goals. We all want young people to be safe when they're online."

Blumenthal had previously written to CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying it was "urgent and necessary" for him or Mosseri to testify to provide members of Congress and parents with a plan on how the company was going to protect children.

"Parents across America are deeply disturbed by ongoing reports that Facebook knows that Instagram can cause destructive and lasting harm to many teens and children, especially to their mental health and wellbeing," Blumenthal wrote.

"Those parents, and the 20 million teens that use your app, have a right to know the truth about the safety of Instagram."

The letter came after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked documents to the Wall Street Journal, which reported an internal study stating Instagram had a harmful effect on teenagers, particularly teen girls, and the company had made minimal efforts to address the issue.

The study also said that teens blame Instagram for increases in anxiety and depression. Among teens with suicidal thoughts, six percent traced their desire to die to the app.

Meta said that the reporting was "not accurate", however shortly afterwards it put Instagram Kids, its proposed app offering ad-free and age-appropriate content for children, on hold.

The company said in a blog post that building Instagram Kids was the right thing to do, but that it was pausing the work and would continue building on its parental supervision tools.

"The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today," Mosseri wrote at the time.

"We firmly believe that it's better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them - where parents can supervise and control their experience - than relying on an app's ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID."

Just yesterday Meta announced it is partnering with international misinformation prevention group First Draft with the aim of battling the spread of disinformation in New Zealand.

"With Kiwis spending more time using social media over lockdown to connect with friends and whānau, we know that people are also accessing a range of information sources whilst online," Nick McDonnell, head of public policy for Meta in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, said.