Facebook unveils new controls for parents to monitor kids on its platforms

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Facebook stock surges, following judge's dismissal of FTC complaint.Facebook stock surges, following judge's dismissal of FTC complaint.On June 28, Facebook's market value exceeded $1 trillion for the first time.Mashable reports the milestone was reached after a judge dismissed an FTC complaint that would have forced Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.Mashable reports the milestone was reached after a judge dismissed an FTC complaint that would have forced Facebook to sell Instagram and WhatsApp.According to Google Finance, Facebook's stock price spiked roughly 4% following news of the court's decision, ending the day at $355.64.As a result, Facebook's current market cap is $1.01 trillion.Compared to other tech giants, Alphabet is valued at $1.67 trillion, Amazon at $1.74 trillion.Compared to other tech giants, Alphabet is valued at $1.67 trillion, Amazon at $1.74 trillion.Microsoft at $2.02 trillionand Apple at $2.25 trillion.Microsoft at $2.02 trillionand Apple at $2.25 trillion.Mashable points out that Twitter, one of Facebook's most direct competitors, is valued at just $54.5 billion

Facebook, in the aftermath of damning testimony that its platforms harm children, will be introducing several features including prompting teens to take a break using its photo sharing app Instagram, and “nudging” teens if they are repeatedly looking at the same content that’s not conducive to their well-being.

ExploreLAST WEEK: Ex-Facebook employee says social network hurts kids, fuels division

The social media giant based in Menlo Park, California, is also planning to introduce new controls that enable parents or guardians to supervise what their teens are doing online. These initiatives come after Facebook announced late last month that it was pausing work on its Instagram for Kids project. But critics say the plan lacks details and they are skeptical that the new features would be effective.

“We are constantly iterating in order to improve our products ... We cannot, with a wave of the wand, make everyone's life perfect. What we can do is improve our products, so that our products are as safe and as enjoyable to use."

- Nick Clegg, Facebook vice president for global affairs on CNN's “State of the Union”

The new controls were outlined on Sunday by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president for global affairs, who made the rounds on various Sunday news shows including CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” where he was grilled about Facebook’s use of algorithms as well as its role in spreading harmful misinformation ahead of the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

“We are constantly iterating in order to improve our products,” Clegg told Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday. “We cannot, with a wave of the wand, make everyone’s life perfect. What we can do is improve our products, so that our products are as safe and as enjoyable to use.”

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Clegg said that Facebook has invested $13 billion over the past few years in making sure to keep the platform safe and that the company has 40,000 people working on these issues. And while Clegg said that Facebook has done its best to keep harmful content out of its platforms, he says he was open for more regulation and oversight.

“We need greater transparency,” he told CNN’s Bash. He noted that the systems that Facebook has in place 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 whistleblower

The flurry of interviews came after whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former data scientist with Facebook, went before Congress last week to accuse the social media platform of failing to make changes to Instagram after internal research showed apparent harm to some teens and of being dishonest in its public fight against hate and misinformation. Haugen’s accusations were supported by tens of thousands of pages of internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in the company’s civic integrity unit.

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Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled "Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower" on Capitol Hill Oct. 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Credit: TNS

Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled "Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower" on Capitol Hill Oct. 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.
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Former Facebook employee Frances Haugen testifies during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation hearing entitled "Protecting Kids Online: Testimony from a Facebook Whistleblower" on Capitol Hill Oct. 5, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, a watchdog for the children and media marketing industry, said that he doesn’t think introducing controls to help parents supervise teens would be effective since many teens set up secret accounts any way. He was also dubious about how effective nudging teens to take a break or move away from harmful content would be. He noted Facebook needs to show exactly how they would implement it and offer research that shows these tools are effective.

“There is tremendous reason to be skeptical,” he said. He added that regulators need to restrict what Facebook does with its algorithms.

He said he also believes that Facebook should cancel its Instagram project for kids.

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Key Revelations the Facebook Whistleblower , Made to Congress.Key Revelations the Facebook Whistleblower , Made to Congress.Frances Haugen is a former Facebook employee who worked as a product manager on issues related to civic integrity.She testified before Congress on Oct. 5, two days after a bombshell interview she did was aired on "60 Minutes.".She testified before Congress on Oct. 5, two days after a bombshell interview she did was aired on "60 Minutes.".One of the key moments during her testimony occurred when she called out Facebook as a threat to kids and U.S. democracy.[Products of Facebook] harm children, stoke division and weaken our democracy, Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower, via CNN.Haugen suggested that Facebook ought to "declare moral bankruptcy,".and she urged lawmakers to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.Section 230 protects a company's authority to moderate the content of its platform.Haugen also said Facebook AI intercepts a "very tiny minority" of offensive content on Facebook.She said children struggle with body image issues in ways that are unprecedented, .primarily because the burden of protecting children is placed largely on the parents.I'm saddest when I look on Twitter and people blame the parents for these problems with Facebook. They say, 'Just take your kid's phone away.', Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower, via CNN.It's a lot more complicated than that, Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower, via CNN.She suggested that schools and federal health organizations should begin to provide information to assist parents.Finally, Haugen said she continues to have “strong national security concerns” about Facebook operations

When Clegg was grilled by both Bash and Stephanopoulos in separate interviews about the use of algorithms in amplifying misinformation ahead of Jan. 6 riots, he responded that if Facebook removed the algorithms people would see more, not less hate speech, and more, not less, misinformation.

Social media apps like Instagram are designed to be addictive, says Roxana Marachi, a professor of education at San Jose State University who studies data harms. Without new laws that regulate how tech companies use our data and algorithms to push users toward harmful content, there is only so much parents can do, Marachi said. “The companies are not interested in children's well-being, they're interested in eyes on the screen and maximizing the number of clicks." Marachi said. “Period."

Clegg told both hosts that the algorithms serve as “giant spam filters.”

Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, told Bash in a separate interview Sunday that it’s time to update children’s privacy laws and offer more transparency in the use of algorithms.

“I appreciate that he is willing to talk about things, but I believe the time for conversation is done,” said Klobuchar, referring to Clegg’s plan. “The time for action is now.”