Facebook Plans to Add New Safety Features for Teens


Frances Haugen blowing the whistle on CBS’s show 60 Minutes. Photo Courtesy of 60 Minutes.

Asa Stuart, Reporter

     On Oct. 4, 2021, Facebook and its sibling apps went down for around six hours because of a router update error. The outage affected all who relied on Facebook and its services, such as companies who advertise on Facebook and use their services to communicate. Some Facebook employees were reportedly unable to enter their workplace as they use their Facebook accounts to enter. 

Facebook reported that the outage was caused by a router error, causing all services that used that error to malfunction. Some speculated that the whistleblower exposing the company had caused the outage, but Facebook denied it. The whistleblower, Frances Haugnen, had gone on 60 Minutes, a show created by CBS News, the day before and exposed that Facebook had been making decisions that made them more money instead of protecting users and the general public. Mark Zuckerburg, CEO of Facebook, has personally responded to those claims, stating, “We care deeply about issues like safety, well-being and mental health. It’s difficult to see coverage that misrepresents our work and our motives.” 

Along with Haugnens’ claims, she provided documents on how Facebook and Instagram are harmful for teenagers, specifically girls, and how that has led to damage in their mental and physical health. Also included is how Facebook’s algorithms spread and promote hate and misinformation, and they know it. Facebook has announced that they will be adding new safety features to Instagram and Facebook, aimed at teens, which will limit political and harmful information shown, give parents more control over their teens’ accounts, and add a time reminder that encourages teens to take a break from Instagram or Facebook. How exactly these will work, when they are coming out, and how effective they will be is yet to be known. 

When asked about Facebook’s plans to make Instagram safer for teens, many said that they were unsure that Facebook could make it work. One teen, who wished to stay anonymous, said, “So far the Facebook and Instagram algorithm have proven to not work so I don’t think that it will do much. I don’t think an algorithm will be able to catch everything”. Facebook’s algorithm has been the topic of many discussions in the past, when it was shown to have fueled 2020 election campaigns that many called propaganda. Facebook seems confident in their algorithm as they have not stated that they will be fixing or upgrading it after Haugen revealed that their algorithm doesn’t work the way they present it. The idea that Facebook will change the feed and ways that teens view Instagram was not appealing for many. 

Another student who also wished to stay anonymous said, “parents should not have access to their teens accounts without their permission. Teens need to get online experience for later in their life, they need to learn to deal with social media’s effects and how to ignore them. Facebook should find a way to make their apps safer, but this isn’t the way.”