Instagram boss compares social media to cars, says people will die
Adam Mosseri is not doing Facebook any favors.
The Instagram manager was interviewed on the Recode Media podcast this week following a damning series of articles in the the Wall Street newspaper based on leaked internal Facebook documents. In the interview with host Peter Kafka, Mosseri tried to defend the negative effects of his platform on his users by comparing social media to cars. The gist of his argument? Some people will just get run over, and that’s the price we all pay.
“We know more people die than they would otherwise from car accidents, but overall, cars create a lot more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri said. “And I think social media is similar.”
The Newspaper The story in question explains how an internal Facebook search (Facebook owns Instagram) found that Instagram was making life worse for a segment of its users.
“We make body image problems worse for one in three teenage girls,” read a 2019 internal slide obtained by the newspaper. “Teens blame Instagram for increasing rates of anxiety and depression,” another read.
A trendy car wreck.
Credit: Arturo Holmes / getty
Responding to Mosseri’s comments on the car, Kafka rightly pointed out that automobiles are subject to intense safety regulation at the federal level, which Mosseri countered by oscillating between saying that social media regulation is welcome and , well, that it is also potentially problematic.
“We think you have to be careful,” he said, “because regulation can cause more problems.”
Kafka wasn’t the only one to see and point out the inconsistency of Mosseri’s defense. Many on Twitter were quick to point out that Mosseri had come empty grabbing straws.
Mosseri’s analogy of fatal car crashes may have been a bit too much on the nose. The Facebook research reported by the Newspaper found that, as the newspaper says, “Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of UK users and 6% of US users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, a presentation showed.”
While Mosseri’s framing of social media as an ultimate societal benefit that just happens to have rather nasty negative externalities may shock some listeners to the Recode Media podcast, it follows in a long line of weird self-justification being made by Facebook. frames.
In 2018, BuzzFeed News published a memo written by then-Facebook vice president Andrew Bosworth (Bosworth has since managed to fail as head of Facebook’s Reality Labs, the division behind the privacy disaster in wait that is Facebook’s camera glasses). The 2016 document paints a damning picture of a company determined to ignore the real consequences of its services.
The memo claimed that Facebook’s goal was to connect people, and people could die from it, which would be bad, but it wouldn’t slow the business down.
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“Maybe it costs a life exposing someone to bullies,” Bosworth wrote. “Maybe someone dies in a coordinated terrorist attack on our tools. And we’re still connecting people.”
Looks like Mosseri and Bosworth have a lot to say. Too bad for the rest of us that the accumulated influence of men on the lives of billions of people means that we will all be forced to listen.