Instagram to introduce "take a break" feature and "steer" teens away from harmful content

Instagram to introduce take a break feature
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Instagram to introduce "take a break" feature

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Instagram will introduce new measures to steer teens away from harmful content and encourage them to "take a break," from the platform, Facebook's vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said on Sunday.

Instagram will introduce new measures to steer teens away from harmful content and encourage them to "take a break," from the platform, Facebook's vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said on Sunday. Clegg made the remarks on CNN's State of the Union program less than a week after whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress about an internal investigation showing that Instagram may have a negative effect on the mental health of young people.

"We're going to introduce something which I think will make a considerable difference, which is where our systems see that a teenager is looking at the same content over and over again, and it's content which may not be conducive to their well being, we will nudge them to look at other content," Clegg said. He further added that in addition to pausing plans for an Instagram Kids platform and giving parents optional controls to supervise teens, the company planned to introduce a feature "called 'take a break,' where we will be prompting teens to just simply take a break from using Instagram."

Clegg did not provide a schedule for any of the functions. In response to an email from The Verge seeking more details, a Facebook spokesperson said the features "are not yet being tested, but will soon be." The spokesperson pointed to a Sept. 27 blog post by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri, which mentioned that the company was "exploring" the features:

We announced last week that we are exploring two new ideas: encouraging people to consider other topics if they focus on content that could contribute to a negative social comparison, and a feature tentatively called "Take a break", where people could place their Count on pause and take a moment to consider whether the time you spend is meaningful.

CNN anchor Dana Bash asked Clegg if Facebook's algorithm amplified or spread pro-insurrection voices ahead of a riot in the US Capitol building on January 6. Clegg said that he could not give a yes or no answer to the question. Haugen is reportedly meeting with the committee investigating the January 6 attack.

Clegg said that Facebook's algorithms "should be held to account, if necessary, by regulation so that people can match what our systems say they're supposed to do from what actually happens."

Facebook has come under intense criticism in recent weeks, following Wall Street Journal reports based on internal documents provided by Haugen. Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, testified before Congress Tuesday at a hearing focused on the company's internal investigation that showed Instagram can be toxic, particularly to teenage girls. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg questioned Haugen's account, saying it was illogical for a company that relies on advertisers to push content that infuriates people for profit.

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