November 28, 2023

A study conducted by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) has found no evidence linking the global expansion of Facebook to widespread psychological harm. The research analyzed changes in wellbeing across 72 countries as the use of the social media platform grew, and it contradicts the common belief that social media causes psychological distress. While this study focused solely on Facebook and not other platforms owned by Meta, such as Instagram, it did not investigate specific content risks or effects on particular vulnerable groups. The OII researchers called for better data access from tech companies to address these questions more comprehensively.

The UK’s Online Safety Bill (OSB), aimed at safeguarding users from online harms, is in the final stages of becoming law. However, experts caution that the OII study’s general findings might have limited relevance to the OSB and that the study’s scope is broad, lacking insights into specific demographic groups like children.

The research, conducted independently of Facebook, was based on data provided by the company itself, which showed the growth of users in various countries between 2008 and 2019. The study compared this data with wellbeing metrics from the Gallup World Poll Survey and concluded that increasing social media adoption wasn’t connected to a negative impact on psychological wellbeing.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, hoped that this study would spark productive discussions with policymakers, parents, and academics to understand the full implications of social media on wellbeing.

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