Saud Anwar

State Senator

Saud Anwar

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working For You

October 15, 2021

Senator Anwar Joins Senator Blumenthal, Connecticut’s Child Advocate to Decry Facebook’s Knowing Harm to Children

Amid a growing fallout nationwide over recent reports, State Senator Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) joined U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and Connecticut Child Advocate Sarah Eagan at the State Capitol this week to decry Facebook’s activities and seek solutions, including increased oversight of the company and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of Congress. In recent weeks, information including a whistleblower’s report has come to light showing that Facebook employees internally were aware that its social media platforms damaged children’s mental health and did not take action.

“Mark Zuckerberg has hacked into the minds of our children, and the results are not good,” said Sen. Anwar. “What we are seeing is an epidemic-level impact on children where behavioral issues, challenges they face with anxiety, eating disorders and perception of themselves are deeply impacted. Our state has been blessed when Senator Blumenthal, as Attorney General, went after tobacco companies that put children at risk for profits. And here we are again with another mega-company putting profits before children. We must stand together and say our children will come before anyone’s profit. Right now, one out of every three teenage girls have had challenges with body perception, and Facebook and Instagram are causing deep impacts. This information has been known and no action has been taken. As co-chair of the Children’s Committee, I will work with my colleagues and with Advocate Eagan to develop a plan of action so we can have a preventative strategy.”

“I have been hearing from parents and caregivers all around the state of Connecticut who are absolutely stunned about what they’ve learned – that Facebook has long known and concealed – that it was preying on children with destructive content pushed toward kids,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “Content that dragged kids to dark places and heightened their anxiety by promoting negative self images, conveying online bullying, eating disorders and potentially leading to suicide. This negative content caused young people and teenagers to think less of themselves and develop negative self-images. Facebook and Instagram not only knew of these negative and destructive effects but concealed and exploited them to make more money, using algorithms to drive destructive content toward kids. The parents of Connecticut are not only outraged but demanding action, and that’s what I will seek. We have a clear blueprint for action to ensure these algorithms are made public, privacy is restored, parents are given the tools to protect their children and there is more oversight over content. We will ask Mark Zuckerberg to speak to Congress so America can hear him and he can try to explain why Facebook is seeking more profits by driving harmful content to kids. Whether he comes or not, we will seek more transparency from Facebook, more privacy and more tools for parents.”

“Our children need help, and so do their parents,” said Advocate Eagan. “Social media, Facebook and Instagram are holes our children fall into – they have no refuge anymore, no safety. They can never untether themselves from constant bombardment on social media. Technology is not all bad, and social media can help with connectiveness. No one is advocating for children to live in a bubble. But Facebook and Instagram are consumer products marketed to children that make money off children who use them and they need to be responsible corporate citizens who take seriously the impact of their product on mental health, family dynamics and the health and well-being of their consumers.”

Among other reports continuing to circulate about Facebook’s activity are internal documents released by a former employee. Those documents revealed the company is aware of significant problems with its services – including knowledge that Instagram has a negative impact on teenagers’ mental health – that it has not resolved, leading to accusations of putting profit over the health of users.