Meta urged to allow independent reviews of in-house mental health research

A group of academics have penned an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging Meta to allow independent reviews of in-house research into how Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp affect youngsters' mental health.

Meta urged to allow independent reviews of in-house mental health research

The news follows revelations that a link has been found between Instagram and anxiety surrounding body image amongst some teenage girls. The letter suggests, however, that the research is limited and relies too heavily on inconclusive anecdotal evidence collected through interviews.

The letter, signed by academics from around the world, states: "You and your organisations have an ethical and moral obligation to align your internal research on children and adolescents with established standards for evidence in mental health science."

The letter also calls for Meta to release data to make it easier for external experts to scrutinise the connection between the firm’s social media platforms and mental health. “It will be impossible to identify and promote mental health in the 21st century if we cannot study how young people are interacting online,” reads the letter.

Speaking to The Verge this autumn Kaveri Subrahmanyam, a developmental psychologist at California State University, asked, “Why are they not releasing the data that they have that shows the clicks and other behaviour?” She adds, “I think they should be inviting researchers who have that expertise, and giving them that data and letting them do that analysis.”

“If the right scientific and ethical tools were in place, data collected by Meta could inform how we understand digital technology use and its influence on mental health in unprecedented ways,” the letter states.

Keep up-to-date with publishing news: sign up here for InPubWeekly, our free weekly e-newsletter.