Facebook should abandon Instagram for kids plan, state AGs urge


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USA TODAY

Most of the state attorneys general in the U.S. have asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to end the company’s plan to create an Instagram for kids. saying it would be “harmful for myriad reasons.”

In a letter from the National Association of Attorneys General, dated Monday, the group urged Zuckerberg “to abandon these plans. Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account.”

Two months ago, Zuckerberg confirmed plans for an Instagram for kids are in “very early stages,” during a Congressional hearing on misinformation. Currently, the photo- and video-sharing app with more than 1 billion users doesn’t allow kids under 13 to use the platform.

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Logo of the social network Instagram on a smartphone and a tablet screen (Photo: LIONEL BONAVENTURE, AFP via Getty Images)

Concerns included the potential harms to “the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children,” they said, citing research about Instagram use among children leading to “suicidal ideation, depression and body image concerns.”

The state AGs also referenced the design flaw in Facebook’s Messenger Kids app in 2019 that resulted in kids bypassing the restrictions and connecting with adults. Facebook has said the error affected group chats and was detected and resolved. 

“Facebook has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children on its platform, despite claims that its products have strict privacy controls,” their letter said. 

In a statement to USA TODAY, Facebook said, “As every parent knows, kids are already online. We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing. We are developing these experiences in consultation 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 nation’s attorneys general. In addition, we commit today to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.” 

The state AGs’ letter echoes a similar one last month from a coalition made up of nearly 100 global experts and child advocates led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and groups including the Center for Humane Technology, Common Sense Media and the Center for Digital Democracy. 

States on the letter include Massachusetts, Nebraska, Vermont, Tennessee, Alaska, California, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia, as well as the territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Contributing: Terry Collins

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2021/05/10/instagram-kids-facebook-mark-zuckerberg-state-attorneys-general/5021323001/



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