Facebook’s head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has come under fire over a recent interview in a Vox Recode Media podcast in which he likened deaths caused by social media to car accident fatalities.
The interview with host Pieter Kafka came after a series of Wall Street Journal articles based on leaked internal Facebook documents.
Put simply, Mosseri argued that just like cars cause deaths, social media could also kill people.
“We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri stated. “And I think social media is similar.”
Kafka countered this by pointing out that cars, unlike social media, were subjected to strict safety regulations.
Mosseri said that social media regulations were welcome but warned they could create more problems.
Twitter users promptly slammed Mosseri’s comments, with one former automotive journalist, Deepa Seetharaman, elaborating further on Kafka’s response.
“Cars are heavily regulated, down to the colour of the blinker, and regularly tested for safety problems,” said Seetharaman.
“That industry also needed to be shoved into mandating seat belts and other safety features despite knowing they’d save lives.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series claims the company’s internal research had shown that Instagram was making life worse for a portion of its users.
The research included findings that Instagram made body image issues worse for one in three teenage girls and teenagers blaming Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.
In one presentation, the company revealed 13% of British and 6% of American teenagers traced their suicidal thoughts to Instagram.
It is not the first time that a Facebook executive has made an outlandish justification for its alleged failure to prevent harm to its users.
In 2018, Buzzfeed News posted a damning memo from former Facebook vice president, Andrew Bosworth.
“Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies,” Bosworth stated. “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still, we connect people.”
“The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”
“It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned,” he added.