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Mark Zuckerberg defends teenage creators’ right to public Instagram accounts

Date 01 Feb, 2024

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Meta, commented in today’s Senate hearing on children’s online safety that teenagers should be able to be creators and share their content widely.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned Zuckerberg about Meta’s privacy controls for teenagers. On Instagram, for example, teens under 16 — or 18 in some countries — have their accounts automatically set to private when they join the platform. But teenagers can toggle these safety measures to make their accounts public at any time.

“Yes, we default teens into a private account so they can have a private and restricted experience,” Zuckerberg told the senator. “But some teens want to be creators and want to have content that they share more broadly, and I don’t think that’s something that should just blanketly be banned.”

Research has shown that becoming a content creator is a dream for many young Americans. In 2019, Morning Consult reported that 86% of teens would consider trying to become an influencer, and that influencers held as much sway as traditional celebrities. For example, as many teens were familiar with the creator PewDiePie as they were with NBA legend LeBron James. When Lego surveyed 3,000 children in 2019, the toy company found that “vlogger” was a more popular dream job for kids than “astronaut.”

Some of the most successful creators started out when they were teenagers, like 19-year-old Charli D’Amelio, a self-made millionaire whose family now has its own venture capital fund. MrBeast, another of the world’s highest earning creators, began posting on YouTube when he was 13.

Of course, there are safety risks for these young creators, as well as any young person on the internet. But Zuckerberg affirms that their contributions to culture — and Meta’s bottom line — are worth it. For a business like Instagram, it’s important to keep talented creators happy on the platform so that their viral content continues to drive ad revenue.

“There have been a lot of teens creating amazing things, and I think with the right supervision and parenting and controls . . . I don’t think that’s the type of thing that you want to not allow anyone to be able to do,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg is one of five tech CEOs who testified before Congress about children’s online safety on Wednesday, including X’s Linda Yaccarino, Discord’s Jason Citron, Snap’s Evan Spiegel, and TikTok’s Shou Chew.

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