Facebook is slowing down the release and development of some new products and features to make sure they won’t bring more scrutiny towards the company or harm children, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. The “reputational reviews” come as Facebook is facing backlash from the public and policymakers after a wave of reports citing Facebook’s own research showing ways Instagram could have a negative effect on teen girls’ mental health. Facebook was also slammed in congressional hearings by whistleblower Frances Haugen, who shed more light on Facebook’s internal research, as well as its business model and algorithms.
Some of Facebook’s recent public actions and statements back up the idea that it’s being extra careful right now. In late September, the company announced it’s “pausing” work on a version of Instagram made for preteens, citing concerns (including those raised by The Wall Street Journal’s reporting) that the public had about the project. In a Tuesday Facebook post responding to the whistleblower’s testimony before Congress, Mark Zuckerberg said the company’s leaders would be doing “deep dives” on its current work to get a clearer picture of how Facebook is trying to make “important contributions across safety, integrity, research, and product.”
Facebook has also pushed back against the recent reporting around it and against the claims made by Frances Haugen. In the post mentioned above, Zuckerberg called parts of her testimony “deeply illogical” and said that The Wall Street Journal’s reporting mischaracterized Facebook’s research (echoing Instagram lead Adam Mosseri’s comments). Facebook also claimed that it banned a group of ad transparency and misinformation researchers’ access to its platform because they improperly scraped data, a justification which the FTC called “inaccurate.”
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about added reviews during product and feature development.
The WSJ also reports that Facebook is examining its internal research that could be potentially damaging if it made its way to the public, according to some of the Journal’s sources. This lines up with a recent report from the New York Times, which noted that Facebook’s legal team had contacted a researcher about a past report and that another researcher was told by their manager to not run any queries that could appear suspicious.