Instagram Pushing ‘Sexual’ Content To Young Users, New Report Finds

Art by Alexander Shatov via Unsplash

Instagram Pushing ‘Sexual’ Content To Young Users, New Report Finds

By Movieguide® Contributor

A new report finds that Instagram is showing “risqué footage” and “overtly sexual adult videos” to young users. 

The Wall Street Journal conducted an experiment, setting up fake accounts that only followed “young gymnasts, cheerleaders and other teen and preteen influencers.”

The experiment was proposed after it was noticed that “the thousands of followers of such young people’s accounts often include large numbers of adult men, and that many of the accounts who followed those children also had demonstrated interest in sex content related to both children and adults,” per WSJ.

Soon after creating the accounts, the Journal found that Instagram pushed “jarring doses of salacious content to those test accounts.”

This content included videos of an adult showing her underwear, a child in a bathing suit and content creators gesturing and dancing suggestively to the camera. The Journal also noted that the ads shown on the accounts’ feeds were equally inappropriate: “ads for dating apps, livestream platforms with ‘adult nudity,’ massage parlors, and AI chatbots ‘built for cybersex,’” per The Christian Post. 

Meta, the company behind Instagram, released a statement about the Wall Street Journal’s experiment, saying the test accounts were “a manufactured experience” that did not properly reflect the average user’s experience. 

“We don’t want this kind of content on our platforms and brands don’t want their ads to appear next to it,” a Meta spokesperson said. “We continue to invest aggressively to stop it – and report every quarter on the prevalence of such content, which remains very low.”

The statement continued, “Our systems are effective at reducing harmful content and we’ve invested billions in safety, security and brand suitability solutions. We tested Reels for nearly a year before releasing it widely – with a robust set of safety controls and measures.”

Movieguide® previously reported on the dangers of Instagram, particularly for young people:

In an internal report obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook confessed that Instagram hurts teenagers’ self-esteem.

“Teens told us that they don’t like the amount of time they spend on the app but feel like they have to be present,” an Instagram research manager wrote. “They often feel ‘addicted’ and know that what they’re seeing is bad for their mental health but feel unable to stop themselves.”

Derek Thompson, a writer for The Atlantic, responded to the WSJ’s article by noting that social media is “attention alcohol.”

“It has some beneficial qualities, but it’s not naturally wholesome,” Thompson said. “Many [people] use it often and love it and are basically okay. But a lot of people abuse it and develop unhealthy compulsions with it. Also, it’s functionally a depressant.”

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