Instagram head Adam Mosseri on how Facebook protects Instagram from scrutiny

"We have been able to learn from some of Facebook's mistakes," Mosseri said in an interview on NBC News' Byers Market podcast.
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Adam Mosseri, the CEO of Instagram, speaks during a Samsung event in San Francisco on Feb. 20, 2019.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Dylan Byers

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, says the photo- and video-sharing network has managed to avoid many of the scandals that befell Facebook because it was protected by and able to learn from its parent company.

"For lack of a more elegant phrase, Facebook as a company serves as a s--- umbrella for Instagram," Mosseri said in an interview on NBC News' Byers Market podcast.

"We have been able to learn from some of Facebook's mistakes," Mosseri said. "People feel a little bit better about their time on Instagram, probably because it's a bit more focused on things that are less contentious."

Mosseri, who was head of Facebook's News Feed until 2018, also said he believes Facebook's public relations struggles are tied to its disruption of the news industry.

"Facebook is the poster child for the internet. The internet is fundamentally what disrupted the news industry's business models," he said. "They always say ... 'Don't pick a fight with anybody who buys ink by the barrel.'"

Mosseri said that much of the media criticism of Facebook is warranted and that the company was "too late" to take serious responsibility for its problems. But he argued that Facebook has demonstrated unprecedented commitment to fixing its problems and that that should be recognized.

"We invest more than anybody else does in these problems," he said. "You can disagree with specific policy decisions or enforcement decisions. But people who accuse us now of not having good intent, of not actually trying to take our responsibility seriously and not investing appropriately to fix those challenges, are just not looking at the actual facts."

In the hourlong conversation, Mosseri also discussed his relationship with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

"We can disagree passionately, but there's a lot of mutual respect, and there's a lot of trust," Mosseri said.

He also touched on Instagram's plan to get rid of like counts, as well as the platform's competitors, including TikTok and Snapchat.

"It's always hard to stay relevant. People move on. People get interested in the new thing," he said. "We try to learn from competitors. You try to take your ego out of it ... and try to understand the reason behind their success. What are they tapping into that is valuable and important to understand?"

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Asked to address Facebook's longstanding tension with Snapchat, from which Facebook and Instagram copied the popular "Stories" feature, Mosseri was quick to give Snapchat all the credit.

"They invented that format. They get the credit for that format. They should get the credit for that format," he said. "We have to be willing to acknowledge when someone did something awesome and try to learn from it."

He also revealed that he's never met Snap CEO Evan Spiegel: "I would love to have a cup of coffee. If he's down, I'm down."

And a parting word of advice: "Don't double Insta," Mosseri said, referring to posting twice to your Instagram feed in one day. "Can't do that."

"I think it's OK, ... but young people don't think it's OK. ... It looks like you're trying too hard."