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New calls made for research on social media’s impact on kids

WASHINGTON — Child safety advocates say an explosive report that Facebook failed to disclose data showing its products negatively affect the mental health of teenagers should be the final straw for lawmakers worried about social media’s impact on young users.

Democrats and Republicans zeroed in on child safety as a bipartisan area of concern this year, even before a Wall Street Journal article published last week detailed internal research showing that teens — especially girls — blamed Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary, for anxiety and depression.

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” noted an internal presentation from 2020 that the newspaper obtained. Researchers found the mental health issues were often in relation to bullying or body image that, in some cases, led to eating disorders.

The report drew a swift response from Capitol Hill, with leaders on the Senate Commerce Committee disclosing they were in contact with a whistleblower from Facebook and pledging to “use every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it — including seeking further documents and pursuing witness testimony.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, the top Republican on Commerce’s consumer protection subcommittee, said in a CNBC interview Sunday that she and Chairman Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would hold a hearing on online child safety in the coming weeks that would include executives from Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube, which is owned by Google.

 

—CQ-Roll Call

Illegal voting allegation against Herschel Walker’s wife dismissed

ATLANTA — The State Election Board dismissed a complaint Tuesday that the wife of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker had voted illegally in Georgia while living in Texas.

The case against Julie Blanchard ended after an investigation by the secretary of state’s office found insufficient evidence to prove that she was ineligible to cast an absentee ballot in Georgia from her and Walker’s home in Texas.

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