When a whistleblower from Facebook (now Meta), leaked the company’s research showing that Instagram was psychologically harmful to girls, newspapers and public commentary framed this as a revelation, but the story felt familiar.1 It seemed another example of a media panic, which many scholars explain have long been intertwined with moral panics.2 New media and media technologies—from the novel to social media—have traditionally generated familiar but slightly transformed and occasionally distinctive concerns about media effects. Such concerns typically revolve around age, gender, and race. But media is also essential to spreading moral and media panics. Reactions in the aftermath of the leaked Facebook documents are a perfect example of both—people expressed concerns about media’s impact and news media’s narrow focus on the documents’ more sensationally negative content exacerbated these concerns. Analysis of the so-called Facebook files focused on the revelations of harms of social media instead of other...

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