Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) grilled Facebook during a Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday in response to the big tech company releasing a report which indicated that their social media platforms increase the risk of suicide among teen girls.
The subcommittee hearing intended to focus on Facebook's privacy and competition; however, congressional members of both parties took the opportunity to grill Facebook over Instagram's negative impact towards teens mental health. Instagram was bought by Facebook in 2012.
"I read a quote a minute ago. Quote, 'We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.' I didn't write that, Facebook wrote that. Is that an accurate statement?" Ted Cruz asked Steve Satterfield, Vice President of Privacy and Public Policy at Facebook .
"We do this research in order to inform hard conversations," Satterfield said in response to senator Cruz.
Cruz, unamused by the Facebook executive's deflection, continued pressing hard questions about the company contributing to an increased risk of suicide.
"I didn't ask why you did the research. I asked if the statement, that was the result of your research, is true," Cruz continued. "The Facebook research concluded that 13 percent of British users and 6 percent of American users trace their desire to kill them to Instagram. Is that a conclusion of your research?"
Satterfield encouraged Cruz to continue the conversation during a private meeting, which was not providing the response the senator was hoping to acquire. Cruz wildly rejected the proposal and mentioned he was concerned given the senator is a father to girls, one of them a teenager.
"Is increased teen suicide unacceptable business risk?" Cruz asked. "Has Facebook quantified how many additional teenagers took their lives because of your products?"
The response from Satterfield to Cruz's series of questions was a simple "no," in which detailed elaboration was not provided.
"What would you say when two years ago you had research that you conducted that concluded your products would contribute to and expand teen suicide? What would you say to a parent on behalf of Facebook who was facing that horrific tragedy?" Cruz asked Satterfield.
"Senator, obviously losing a child to a tragedy like that is devastating," Satterfield responded. "I have children, I take these issues incredibly seriously, myself."
The Texas senator asked Satterfield what steps Facebook took to prevent an increased risk of mental health issues at the hands of their company given that the report was conducted two years ago.
The research first reported by the Wall Street Journal shows that 32 percent of teen girls said that Instagram made them feel bad about their bodies and increased anxiety and depression. The research, which was conducted in 2019, showed that 6 percent of users in the United States with suicidal thoughts traced it back to Instagram.