Big Tech Should Pay To Damage Mental Health


A the Wall Street newspaper investigation Newly uncovered internal research shows that Instagram is harmful to the mental health of around one-third of teenage girls, with black girls being the hardest hit. This is a serious threat to the health of our youth and Congress and the Biden administration must aggressively pursue a regulatory and research agenda to address it.

The lack of action to date may be because policymakers believed there was still some ambiguity in the research – ambiguity caused in part by the refusal of social media giants to open their data to researchers. exterior. While some ambiguity exists for almost all major health threats, social media companies use their lack of transparency to pretend ignorance, such as Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergThe Hill’s Morning Report – Brought to you by Alibaba – House Democrats plagued by agenda issues Biden Webb: Big Tech Won’t Change; Tech Industry May Hillicon Valley – Brought to you by Xerox – Democrats Press FTC to Solve Data Privacy ‘Crisis’ MORE done in March when demand on mental health by Representative Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash).

Here’s where there’s no ambiguity: Rates of teenage depression began to rise exactly when social media became prevalent. In 2009, Facebook became the most popular social platform in the world. In the decade that followed, major depression doubled during our teenage years. Our screening data at Mental Health America shows a similar trend.

As Congress and the administration increasingly recognize the problem, the question then becomes how to solve it. How would we begin to approach or measure the impact of social media on children’s mental health? Here is just one approach to consider Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) And Senator. Marsha blackburnMarsha BlackburnFacebook to testify in Senate after report reveals Instagram is harming mental health. (R-Tenn.) Organize a audience with social media managers for September 30.

The federal government should create financial incentives for social media companies like Facebook to protect and promote children’s mental health, but not by giving these companies more money. Instead, the federal government should withhold a portion of corporate revenues – an amount that is fair and could be considered “ill-gotten” by targeting children. Companies would then have the opportunity to recoup these revenues by demonstrating how they have a positive impact (or at least do not harm) children.

To retrieve them, companies would have to share data with a government agency responsible for oversight. The agency would work with young people, researchers and other stakeholders to create fair and transparent methods to assess the impacts of the social media platform on children’s mental health, based on the data submitted (which may include reasonable additional data collection requests). Measuring this would be a new area of ​​regulatory science, similar to how the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency created methods to determine the impact of different factors on health.

If the agency finds no harm to the children, then the business recovers its income. If the agency sees a net positive impact on children, then the business can recover its own income and some of the money that other businesses have not recovered.

To protect innovation, only companies of a certain size would be subject to these policies. This would give large corporations a financial incentive to help, rather than harm, children without receiving additional money from the federal government. To keep costs down, the agency itself could be funded by user fees from companies submitting data.

While it may sound revolutionary, this approach would not be new – all of these political strategies are already in use in the healthcare industry. Incentives to return, for example, are common in efforts to reduce overall spending on health care while improving results.

The FDA, to take another example, is funded in part by cost of using. Congress regularly promulgates comprehensive bipartisan legislation outlining fees and resource-funded activities. Companies seeking FDA approval are often required to submit data from various assessments and processes to demonstrate safety.

Ultimately, this type of approach would apply the best health policy thinking to address the growing crisis in children’s mental health, fueled by social media. At the same time, it would avoid mandates and keep costs low for the government. It would also give social media companies a strong incentive to develop new ideas to have a positive impact..

This is only one approach, but it deserves special attention. We cannot continue to scroll through this issue. Partly because of this unethical targeting of children, Facebook won over $ 29 billion in net income in 2020, an increase of 58% from 2019. Congress has the opportunity to create carrots and financial sticks that motivate social media businesses to improve the well-being of young people. Otherwise, Facebook and others will wait until this news cycle is over and stop doing internal research on it altogether.

Nathaniel Counts is Senior Vice President of Behavioral Health Innovation at Mental Health America and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.


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