During a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri stated that the company is working on a version of its feed that would display users’ posts in chronological order, as opposed to its current ranking algorithm, which sorts posts based on user preferences.
Users who prefer to see their own and their friends’ posts appear in a timely manner dislike the company’s algorithmically sorted feed, which was introduced in 2016 and then updated in 2017 to include recommended posts. The current feed makes use of artificial intelligence to create what Instagram considers a more personalized feed based on user activity. Despite the company’s claims to the contrary, it remains unpopular with a large number of users.
Mosseri testified before a Senate subcommittee, where he was grilled by senators about child safety issues on the app, which was prompted in part by revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who provided internal documents to The Wall Street Journal indicating that the company was aware its app was “toxic” for teenagers. “Have some compassion. As the hearing came to a close, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) chastised Mosseri, saying, “Take some responsibility.”
During his testimony, Mosseri proposed the establishment of a “industry body” to establish best practices for the handling of children’s data and parental controls to help keep children safe online. To develop universal standards and protections, the body would solicit input from parents, regulators, and civil society. Mosseri stated that platforms must earn the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by adhering to those standards.
Senators appeared skeptical that such a “industry body” could be useful. “The time for self-policing is over,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who has advocated for online child safety measures in response to Instagram concerns.
Instagram rolled out the “Take a Break” feature, which it began testing last month, to users in the United States and other English-speaking countries on Tuesday. The opt-in feature prompts users to pause using the app after a certain amount of time has passed. More parental controls over their teenagers’ Instagram use will be available next year, according to Mosseri.
“What you’ve proposed thus far is underwhelming,” Blumenthal said to Mosseri before adjourning the hearing on Wednesday, referring to Take a Break and the other updates. “That’s not going to keep kids away from the addictive effects… of your platform.”