A bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general has written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to abandon the company’s plans for a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Monday.
In the letter, the attorneys general expressed concern about social media’s effects on children’s physical and emotional well-being, the potential for increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators, and Facebook’s “checkered record.” “in terms of protecting children on its platforms
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but rather creating one, as this platform primarily appeals to children who would not otherwise have an Instagram account, “The attorneys general of 40 states, the District of Columbia, and three US territories signed the letter.
Due to federal privacy regulations, children under the age of 13 are technically not permitted to use the Instagram app in its current form. However, Facebook confirmed a Buzzfeed News report in March, saying it is “exploring a parent-controlled experience” on Instagram.
“It is disgraceful that Facebook is ignoring the very real threat that social media poses to the safety and well-being of young children in order to profit from a vulnerable segment of our population,” Healey said in a statement.
In a statement issued Monday, Facebook stated that it is investigating Instagram for kids in order to give parents more control over what their children who are already online are exposed to, that it will make every effort to protect children, and that it will not display advertising on the platform.
“We are developing these experiences in collaboration with child development, child safety, and mental health experts, as well as privacy advocates.” “According to the company. “We are also excited to collaborate with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general.”
Facebook also stated that it is a founding sponsor of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, which was established in March to investigate the effects of digital technology on children’s “brains, bodies, and behaviours.””
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood supports the attorneys general’s efforts.
“Facebook is faced with a critical decision: will they pursue their ill-conceived plan to ensnare young children, or will they listen to the growing chorus of parents, experts, advocates, lawmakers, and regulators who warn that an Instagram kids’ site will undermine young children’s healthy development and right to privacy?” In a statement, Executive Director Josh Golin said.
Similar criticism was levelled at Facebook in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, which was billed as a way for children to communicate with family members and friends approved by their parents.