An international alliance of scholars and a number of influential signatories have written an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The group, consisting of over 300 scientists has asked Meta to allow access to outside researchers and play its role in understanding the mental health of children and adolescents.
The letter has been penned in response to internal documents that were leaked to The Wall Street Journal by whistleblower Frances Haugen, expressing concern regarding the methodologies used by Meta for research on mental health.
The letter reads, “Recently, we have been following news reports about research within your companies on the mental health of the child and adolescent users of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Unfortunately, that research is happening behind closed doors and without independent oversight. Therefore, we have only a fragmented picture of the studies your companies are conducting. We do not believe that the methodologies seen so far meet the high scientific standards required to responsibly investigate the mental health of children and adolescents”.
The letter further expressed concern around the development of tools used by Facebook, now Meta – which the coalition of scholars believe should not be without ‘independent oversight’.
The letter has been published on the website of Oxford Internet Institute and makes three recommendations, “With three billion people using Meta platforms for socializing, leisure, and business it is highly plausible that these virtual environments have far-reaching effects on the mental health of younger users — in both positive and negative ways”.
The scholars concluded their letter with an offer of providing their help in understanding as well as supporting child and adolescent mental health in the digital age and stressing that the concern is global and needs a global solution.
The letter also said, “Understanding and supporting child and adolescent mental health in the digital age is a bigger challenge than any one person, company, or team can tackle. We believe your platforms have the potential to play an important role in impacting billions of young people for the common good. This global challenge requires a global solution. We believe Meta can do better and we write to offer our help.”