Dozens of U.S. attorneys general have sent an open letter urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram targeting minors under the age of 13.
Facebook is considering developing a version of Instagram for children under the minimum age required to use its flagship image-sharing app, as originally reported by BuzzFeed News in March.
The 44 attorneys general condemned these plans in a joint letter, arguing that such early exposure to social media is detrimental to the health and mental well-being of children.
They said Facebook has historically failed to address serious harm, such as breaches of children’s privacy, despite their claims that its services have strict privacy controls.
“The use of social media can be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of children who are not equipped to meet the challenges of having a social media account,” they wrote.
“Furthermore, Facebook hasn’t historically protected the welfare of children on its platforms.” They cited research suggesting a link between Instagram use and suicidal ideation;
fear of being socially excluded; bullying and body image problems (made worse by inappropriate ad targeting).
They also argued that children under the age of 13 are not yet able to safely navigate these types of social media platforms, making them very vulnerable.
Children are “just too young to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including inappropriate content and online relationships where other users, including predators, can disguise their identities using the anonymity of the Internet,” the letter said.
The Attorney General noted that Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, which is intended for children between the ages of six and 12, contained a “significant design flaw that allowed children to bypass restrictions on online interactions and participate in group chats with strangers who are not.
had previously been approved by the children’s parents. ”US data protection rules are much stricter for minors under the age of 13, with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 restricting how children’s personal information can be collected and used.
popular social media platforms, including TikTok and YouTube, have been accused of violating this law.
“It seems that Facebook is not meeting a need, but creating one, as this platform mainly appeals to children who do not have or would otherwise In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for many reasons k.
The attorneys general urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch this new platform, ”the letter concluded. The letter was signed by Republican and Democratic attorneys general from 40 states, including Massachusetts, New York, Texas, and California.
They were joined by the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.
In April, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood urged Facebook to scrap plans for the app, arguing that the platform would put minors at “great risk.
” A Facebook spokesperson said the company “has just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids” and is committed to not showing ads on an Instagram platform for minors.
“We are developing these experiences in concert. with experts in child development, child safety and mental health and privacy advocates. We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the Attorney General [US].