'Just Plain False': Facebook Responds to WSJ Reporting on Its Research

Facebook’s vice president of global affairs issued another response to the Journal’s series on the company Saturday

Facebook issued another response Saturday to reporting from the Wall Street Journal that the company studied the toxic effects of Instagram on teen girls and downplayed the findings to the public. Facebook said that’s “just plain false.”

In a blog post called “What the Wall Street Journal Got Wong,” vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg wrote, “These are serious and complex issues, and it is absolutely legitimate for us to be held to account for how we deal with them. But these stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees.”

He went on, “At the heart of this series is an allegation that is just plain false: that Facebook conducts research and then systematically and willfully ignores it if the findings are inconvenient for the company. This impugns the motives and hard work of thousands of researchers, policy experts and engineers at Facebook who strive to improve the quality of our products, and to understand their wider (positive and negative) impact. It’s a claim which could only be made by cherry-picking selective quotes from individual pieces of leaked material in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.”

Clegg pointed to Facebook’s ongoing research and “close partnership with researchers, regulators, policymakers and others,” but said the Journal’s series on the company doesn’t help with the mission of that work.

A representative for the paper did not immediately return a request for comment on Facebook’s statement.

For the last few years, Instagram researchers have been studying this impact on their users. Their findings, obtained from an internal Facebook message board by Journal and published this week, revealed 32% of teen girls who felt bad about their bodies felt worse because of Instagram. Among those having suicidal thoughts, 13% of British teens and 6% of American teens linked that desire to Instagram, according to the research.

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