Congressional hearings where tech executives are questioned about their products and services by U.S. Congressmen reveal that many of them are out of touch with current technology. A recent hearing discussed the impact of "finstas" on teenage Instagram users — but what is a finsta account exactly?
What is a Finsta account on Instagram?
"Finsta" is a slang term for a "fake Insta" account. According to Urban Dictionary, a finsta is "a spam Instagram account where people post what they are too afraid to post on the real account."
These accounts are typically private and have a small number of followers compared to the person's real Instagram. These accounts are very popular with teenagers and young adults.
The content on these accounts varies depending on the user. Some use it as an opportunity to update their friends on what's happening in their life (the good and the bad), while others use it to post pictures they think aren't suitable for public accounts. While some parents worry that these accounts are full of inappropriate behavior and bad influences, not every finsta account is filled with unsavory activity.
A U.S. Senator has asked Facebook to "commit to ending finsta."
In a Senate hearing with Facebook's Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, Sen. Richard Blumenthal asked her "Will you commit to ending finsta?"
The question confused Antigone, who attempted to explain to the senator that "finsta" wasn't necessarily a thing she could work to end, as it's a type of account users create (through the methods one would use to create any Instagram account).
“Senator, again, let me explain. We don’t actually do finsta,” she said. “What finsta refers to is young people setting up accounts where they want to have more privacy.”
She explained that it was not necessarily something Instagram (or Facebook) is accountable for.
“You refer to it as privacy from their parents, but in my interaction with teens, what I found is that they sometimes like to have an account where they can interact just with a smaller group of friends," she continued.
Sen. Blumenthal asked if finsta was a product created by Facebook, to which Antigone explained it was only a slang term and not a product.
“OK, will you end that type of account?” he asked.
The hearing was called after a report leaked from the company found young users (particularly girls) could suffer negative impacts from the platform's current model, including body image and mental health problems.
In response to these questions from the Senator, Antigone replied, "We have put in place multiple protections to create safe and age-appropriate experiences for people between the ages of 13 and 17.” She claimed the company is making efforts to better support the vulnerable groups on its platform, though eliminating finstas may not be the way to go.