Instagram Chief Faces Backlash Over His Cars Comparison

Adam Mosseri acknowledges social media has dangers, but he says cars do, too
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 17, 2021 8:48 AM CDT
Instagram Chief's Comparison to Cars Doesn't Go Over Well
This undated photo provided by Instagram/Facebook Inc. shows Adam Mosseri.   (Instagram/Facebook Inc. via AP)

The head of Instagram appeared on a podcast to defend the app and parent company Facebook after a series of critical articles in the Wall Street Journal. But Adam Mosseri appears to have only made things worse by drawing a comparison between the dangers of social media and of driving. Coverage:

  • Podcast: The gist of the investigative pieces in the Journal is that both companies know their products create a toxic environment for users, particularly teenage girls. On the Recode Media podcast, Mosseri suggested that was a necessary evil.
  • His comparison: "We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large cars create way more value in the world than they destroy," said Mosseri, per Mashable. "And I think social media is similar."

  • Like cigarettes? Podcast host Peter Kafka drew a comparison of his own, asking Mosseri if Instagram should face restrictions similar to those of Big Tobacco if its product harms customers. “Absolutely not, and I really don’t agree with the comparison to drugs or cigarettes, which have very limited, if any, upsides,” Mosseri said, per CNBC. “Anything that is going to be used at scale is going to have positive and negative outcomes. Cars have positive and negative outcomes.”
  • Backlash: It came fast and furious, with multiple critics pointing out that autos are subject to strict government regulations, unlike social media. A typical sentiment, as voiced by former Facebook exec Brian Boland: “We also have regulations and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for cars," he tweeted. "Maybe @mosseri should read Unsafe At Any Speed?”
  • Broad answer: Host Kafka asked Mosseri if social media should be regulated, and the exec gave a carefully hedged answer. “We think you have to be careful because regulation can cause more problems,” Mosseri said. “But I do think we are a big enough industry that it’s important, and we need to evolve it forward.”
(More Instagram stories.)

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