Sen. Blumenthal asks Facebook executive to ‘commit to ending finsta’

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I’m not the hippest, coolest person around, but there’s one thing I do try to keep up with, and that’s the slang used by garbage youths and/or popular AAVE. I love language and the evolution of modern languages, and I get a kick out of learning what “finna” and “turnt” and “deadass” mean. I’m constantly checking with Google and the Urban Dictionary to make sure I’m getting it right. So… while I probably learned what a Finsta is years after people started using the term, I have known what a Finsta is for a while. Plainly said, Finsta is a fake-Instagram. You have your main Insta account for your official sh-t and then you have a fake Insta to lurk, to troll, to post sh-t you don’t necessarily want your friends, families and work colleagues to see.

Finstas are not the problem with social media today. I mean, maybe they are one of the minor problems, but there’s probably never going to be a Presidential Commission on Finstas. However, there was a Senate Commerce subcommittee hearing on mental health issues related to social media, and Facebook’s head of global safety, Antigone Davis, appeared via video conference to answer questions. One of the questions from the sub-committee’s chairman, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, was about… finsta. I cannot.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) had a moment of questionable tech aptitude in a hearing held to question Facebook officials on Thursday. Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, beamed into the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security for a hearing on revelations that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has a negative psychological impact on young people. The hearing also focused on reporting that the company knew about that impact.

Blumenthal serves as chairman of the subcommittee, and at one point in the hearing, he asked Davis with a straight face: “Will you commit to ending finsta?”

The problem: Finsta isn’t a product Facebook and Instagram actually provides.

Davis informed Blumenthal “we don’t actually do finsta,” and she proceeded to explain the term.

“But finsta is one of your products or services,” Blumenthal countered. Davis enlightened him of the term again, so the senator once again asked “will you end that type of account?”

Davis responded to that by saying Facebook allows finstas options that provide users greater levels of privacy.

[From Mediaite]

Here’s the thing, the subcommittee actually had and has important work to do, and this is a HUGE issue, how social media affects mental health in children and teens. And this kind of screwup – and it was a screwup – will divert attention away from the real subject. The real subject is: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter know their product is addictive and harmful and they know that there should be enormous limits on how much access kids have to social media. And Facebook is a bad actor when it comes to misinformation and the promotion of harmful stories and advertising, and that’s also where the focus should have been. I hate that Blumenthal’s staff made him seem incompetent. All of these senators need some garbage youths on staff to help them understand how social media works and what all of the slang means. Billie Eilish should deadass go to the Senate and conduct a seminar.

Photo courtesy of Getty.

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31 Responses to “Sen. Blumenthal asks Facebook executive to ‘commit to ending finsta’”

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  1. goofpuff says:

    Sigh he should run any social media talking points by his interns or grandkids first.

    • Oh_Hey says:

      This. He apparently had a good point about harmful pages and ads targeting teens and just gaffed it up.

      Like it get this tech and lingo is not his generation but if it’s important enough for a subcommittee it’s important enough for you to know what the hell it is.

      • Yup, Me says:

        I feel as though this spotlights the issue of term limits with our politicians, too, though. Entirely too many of our representatives are completely out of touch with the world they are governing (while we, as tax payers, pay for their great vacations and medical packages).

    • NightOwl says:

      If you have time, watch the hearing. He knows exactly what Finstas are and starts the hearing talking about them. The clip is being taken out of context.

      • Sadezilla says:

        Yep, he clearly explained what a finsta was in the hearing. The clips I watched didn’t have time stamps so not sure if he said it before or after the question, but he definitely correctly defined it during the hearing. Assuming he defined it before he asked the question (which seems to have been poorly phrased), I wish he would have corrected the disingenuous and condescending Facebook flack who defined it in her answer (and dodged his question), but maybe he didn’t because of time.

      • Oh_Hey says:

        So FB is evil in carnate and they are actively destroying the world. That said he absolutely does not understand what a finsta is based on the clip and long form of the video. He had a prepared speech to explain and open his questioning but his ask of “ending finsta” was either a political stunt gone wrong or he doesn’t know what it is. Under the “he does know scenario” He’s essentially asking for no anonymity on the internet but he knows how insane that sounds so he says “end finsta”? Explain what’s happening there.

        Like it’s clear as day he doesn’t understand.

      • NightOwl says:

        @Oh_Hey I see your point. Technically, Finsta is not a product but he speaks of it as such. He really is talking about Finsta as a use case of Instagram, but that’s a nuance that people who don’t use Instagram fluently might not be able to express well. I wish they would sometimes have the staffers who are fluent on this be at the forefront in these hearings so they can really press on these issues, rather than get tripped up like this. I feel he conceptually gets it. I’ve been seeing a push for no anonymity on the internet but don’t really see how that can be done in it’s current state. Will be an interesting space to watch.

  2. SarahCS says:

    This is why reverse mentoring is something every large organisation should be doing, connect the senior/older employees with the junior/younger ones. Everyone wins.

  3. Joanna says:

    Huh never heard of it. I’m 45 though

  4. Esmom says:

    I like Blumenthal and this just made me cringe so much I could barely read anything about it. I also hate that this made him seem incompetent, too, because he’s generally not. Sigh.

  5. Yoke says:

    Sounds like someone wasn’t paying attention when staffers briefed him. I had a boss like that. She’s be clearly distracted and would get annoyed if you tried to repeat/reiterate because « she got it » and then she’d say something stupid during the actual meeting and you immediately realize which part of your spiel she must have not heard right, but it’s too late and she’s glaring at you like it’s your fault.

  6. Koro says:

    So what’s the term for when the kids have one insta that is tame and they allow their family to see and another one where they put all their pouty gym bra pictures, which the one they use with their friends?? That’s the bigger problem with the adolescents I know of! As a parent you’re keeping an eye on the curated version they want you to see .. sigh…

  7. STRIPE says:

    This is partly why tech companies are getting away with what they do. Our legislators are, I’m sorry, too old and don’t understand the tech and how it works. Remember the Senator asking Zuck how FB makes money? (Face palm)

  8. NightOwl says:

    This is not exactly right and is Facebook spin. If you watch other clips such as this one , you’ll see Senator Blumenthal knows exactly what Finstas are. His office also did an experiment and set up a Finsta with a profile of a teenage girl who was worried about her weight. Facebook’s very intentional algorithms quickly started recommending accounts that promote self-injury and eating disorders.

    Facebook is very very smart about their PR and is absolutely gleeful at how Blumenthal’s nearly rhetorical question to the Facebook rep is being taken out of context. Facebook, just like Fox, seems to work to generate sound bites for viral content and misinformation.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Thank you & posters upthread for highlighting this. It was so disturbing that the profile they set up (for a fake 13 year old) got recommended ED & self-harm content within 24 hours. Facebook is a bad actor, full stop.

    • Yup, Me says:

      Ahhhh. Thank you for sharing that clarification.

    • Willow says:

      That’s horrible – about both the fake account and FBs spin of this incident. These social media companies are the cigarette manufacturers of the 80s/90s.

    • Katie says:

      Yeah, this is spin. FB could at least to attempt to put in controls to limit fake accounts and completely dodged.

    • NightOwl says:

      Here’s the longform of what he actually says in his opening statement about the test they did: “My office did its own research, we created an instagram account identified As a 13 year old girl and followed a few easily findable accounts associated with extreme dieting and eating disorders. Within a day, its recommendations were exclusively filled with accounts that promotes self injury and eating disorders. That is the perfect storm that instagram has fostered and created. ”

      and for those interested in the hearing itself

      • goofpuff says:

        wow @NightOwl, that is awful 🙁 I knew Facebook was evil but that’s just….so…ugh

  9. Jess says:

    Most of these senators wouldn’t be considered employable in regular jobs due to their inability to grasp technology and modern day issues, yet we continue to allow them to run the entire country. WHY?

    • NightOwl says:

      He knows exactly what Finstas and talks about it in other parts of the hearing. This clip is being taken out of context likely to elicit the exact response you are having, to sow distrust in the hearing and make a mockery of those who are trying to hold them to account.

    • Erin says:

      While he may actually know what he’s talking about as demonstrated by the links and comments above I still agree that we have WAY too many people, mostly men, who are absolutely too old and out of touch to be representing us in our government.

  10. Merricat says:

    Facebook is evil, and so is Zuckerberg.

  11. Lionel says:

    I love that FB’s head of global safety is named Antigone. That’s classic.

  12. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    You can’t govern personas. What a monstrous waste of time.

    • NightOwl says:

      You can however govern how a company uses personal information that is shared by users if Facebook Inc doesn’t feel compelled from a ethical standpoint to not serve up destructive content and misinformation, especially when we are talking about younger people who really ought not to be preyed on. For that matter, companies ought not be allowed to serve up this manipulative content to ANYONE.

      Personas/Finstas were used as one *example* of how destructive the content FB/IG is serving up, can be, for a new (young) impressionable user.

  13. Kem says:

    What the hell is garbage youths supposed to mean? Especially when used adjacent to AAVE?!

    • so says:

      I was wondering the same thing : never heard the expression “garbage youth” before. Does that refer to a specific generation or something …?

    • Roxy says:

      I was thinking the same thing. Very odd way to phrase it. I still don’t fully understand what they are trying to say?