Hundreds of scientists ask for Meta's mental health research

In a letter penned in response to documents leaked to WSJ, scientists expressed concern over Meta's research methods


Tech Desk December 08, 2021
PHOTO: @Meta

An international coalition of scholars and a number of influential signatories have sent an open letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The group, consisting of more than 300 scientists has asked Meta to open its doors to outside researchers and do its part in understanding mental health of children and adolescents.

The letter, penned in response to internal documents leaked to The Wall Street Journal by whistleblower Frances Haugen, expressed concern about the methodologies used by Meta for research about mental health.

"Recently, we have been following news reports about research within your companies on the mental health of 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, " a part of the letter reads.

The letter further expressed concern about the development of tools used by Facebook, now Meta - which the coalition of scholars believe should not be without 'independent oversight'.

The letter, published on the website of Oxford Internet Institute made three recommendations:

  1. Commit to gold-standard transparency on child and adolescent mental health research
  2. Contribute to independent research on child and adolescent mental health around the globe
  3. Establish an independent oversight trust for child and adolescent mental health on Meta platforms

"With three billion people using Meta platforms for socialising, 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 letter posits.

The scholars concluded their letter by offering their help in understanding supporting child and adolescent mental health in the digital age and highlighting that the concern is global and needs a global solution.

"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."

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