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EngadgetDec 08, 2021
Senators came to the Instagram hearing armed with their teenaged finstas
Instagram's top executive spent more than two hours being grilled by the Senate about Instagram's safety policies and its impact on teens' metal health. Unfortunately for Mosseri, members of the subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security came to the hearing armed with fresh anecdotes from their own finstas.

During the hearing, Mosseri's first time appearing in Congress, multiple senators revealed that they and their staffs had created fresh Instagram accounts disguised as teenagers. They all said that the app had steered them toward content that was inappropriate for young users, including "anorexia coaches," and other content related to self harm.

The staff of one lawmaker, Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn, managed to uncover a significant bug in one of Instagram's teen safety features. Blackburn said that her staff created a fresh account as a 15-year old-girl, but that the account defaulted to public, not private. Instagram said in July that teens younger than 16 signing up for the first time would be defaulted to private accounts.

"While Instagram is touting all these safety measures, they aren't even making sure that the safety measures are in effect for me," Blackburn said. Mosseri later confirmed that the company had mistakenly not enabled the private default settings for new accounts created on the web. "We will correct that quickly," he said.

Blackburn wasn't the only senator who came to the hearing prepared with questions about what they saw on a staff-created finsta. Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said that his staff had created a new account posing as 13-year-old just days before. He said after following "a few accounts promoting eating disorders," that "within an hour, all of our recommendations promoted pro-anorexia and eating disorder content.

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