During a hearing before a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the company is working on a version of its feed that would show users' posts in chronological order, unlike its current ranking algorithm that sorts posts based on user preferences.
The company’s algorithmically sorted feed, introduced in 2016, and then updated in 2017 to include recommended posts, is widely disliked by users who prefer to have their posts and their friends’ posts surface in a timely manner. The current feed uses AI to create what Instagram considers a more personalized feed, based on users’ activity. But it has remained generally unpopular among a vast swath of users, despite the company’s assertions otherwise.
Mosseri appeared before the Senate subcommittee where he was grilled by senators about child safety issues on the app, prompted in part by revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who provided internal documents to The Wall Street Journal that suggested the company was aware its app may be “toxic” for teenagers. “Have some empathy. Take some responsibility,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) chided Mosseri as the hearing wound down.
During his testimony, Mosseri proposed the creation of an “industry body” that would determine best practices over the handling of children’s data and parental controls to help keep children safe online. The body would receive input from parents, regulators, and civil society, to create universal standards and protections. Mosseri said platforms would need to earn the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by following those standards.
Senators seemed skeptical that such an an “industry body” could be effective. “The time for self-policing is over,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who has called for online child safety measures to address concerns about Instagram.
On Tuesday, Instagram rolled out the “Take a Break” feature it started testing last month to users in the US and other English-speaking countries. The opt-in feature prompts users to pause using the app after they’ve been using it for a certain time period. More parental controls over their teenagers’ use of Instagram will be released next year, Mosseri said Tuesday.
“What you’ve suggested so far is underwhelming,” Blumenthal told Mosseri before ending Wednesday’s hearing, referring to Take a Break and the other updates. “That ain’t gonna save kids from the addictive effects ... of your platform.”