Facebook exec will testify at Senate hearing after report finds Instagram harms teen mental health

Facebook’s Global Safety Head Antigone Davis speaks during a roundtable discussion on cyber security and technology at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC.

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Facebook has agreed to send Antigone Davis, the global head of safety, to testify before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection on September 30, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.

The Washington Post reported the news earlier on Thursday.

The hearing comes after the Wall Street Journal published a series of reports detailing internal Facebook discussions, based on documents it obtained. One article that sparked outrage among lawmakers revealed that Facebook had conducted research that showed its Instagram app had a negative impact on the mental health of many teenage girls, despite testimonies from CEOs in the past that only highlighted the platforms’ positive effects. Lawmakers from both parties demanded answers from Facebook.

Instagram’s head of public policy, Karina Newton, wrote in a blog post after the report that the company is exploring ways to push users toward more up-and-coming content.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, a ranking member of the subcommittee, told CNBC last week about the upcoming hearing, saying she expects to include representatives from Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Snap and Google-owned YouTube. It is not yet clear which companies other than Facebook, if any, will have a witness at next week’s hearing.

A YouTube spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that the company is working to set a date to testify about its privacy and child safety policies. According to YouTube, the company first learned of the date of the September 30 hearing on September 10, which it said was later than other witnesses learned. YouTube said it had asked for additional time to prepare, but the request was turned down.

A Snap spokesperson said the company continues to work with the committee.

Spokespeople for the other companies mentioned did not immediately provide any comment.

Blackburn said in her previous CNBC interview that her employees spoke to a whistleblower on Facebook with the same documents submitted to the newspaper. The Post reported Thursday that the whistleblower plans to go public with the whistleblower before the end of the year, possibly by testifying before Congress, according to an unnamed aide to Blackburn.

Blackburn and Facebook spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the possible testimony reported from the whistleblower.

In a hearing earlier this week that was supposed to focus on data and antitrust law, lawmakers instead ended up questioning a Facebook privacy policy executive about the Journal article. Many of the same senators will get another chance to question Facebook at next Thursday’s hearing.

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