Instagram has known for years it's toxic for girls' body image

A slide from a 2019 presentation said: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

Postmedia News 2 minute read September 16, 2021

Facebook has known for at least two years that its subsidiary Instagram is toxic for young girls in terms of body image, leaked research obtained by the Wall Street Journal shows.

However, Facebook continues to add beauty-editing filters despite 6 per cent of suicidal American girls blaming it for wanting to kill themselves, according to researchers.

The WSJ reports that one post on an internal message board in March 2020 revealed 32 per cent said Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies if they were already insecure.

And a slide from a 2019 presentation said: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”

Another presentation found that among suicidal teens, 13 per cent of British users and 6 per cent of American users traced those feelings to Instagram.

The revelation has upset both parents and politicians alike, with some calling it “sickening” that Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have known about Instagram’s harmful influence but aren’t doing anything.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey tweeted: “This is appalling. I’ll be demanding answers from Mark Zuckerberg.”

The research also showed younger users have moved away from Facebook to Instagram, with 40 per cent of the latter’s one billion monthly users under the age of 22 and just over half are female.

The WSJ’s revelations are the latest in a series of scandals for Facebook.

Most recently, it became known that the company had a so-called “white list” of celebrities, influencers and politicians who were exempt from its rules because of their large followings.

As of 2020, there were 5.8 million Facebook users covered by XCheck — the program which exempts the users — including Brazilian soccer star Neymar, former President Donald Trump, his son, Donald Trump Jr., U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, model Sunnaya Nash, and Zuckerberg himself.

The WSJ quotes an internal review which said: ‘We are not actually doing what we say we do publicly. Unlike the rest of our community, these people can violate our standards without any consequences.”

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told the WSJ the company is in the process of phasing out its “whitelisting” policies.