Abandon Instagram for kids plan, U.S. states urge Facebook

Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

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U.S. officials representing 44 states and territories on Monday urged Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.

According to the officials, 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 and added that an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for ‘myriad reasons’.

“The attorneys general have an interest in protecting our youngest citizens, and Facebook’s plans to create a platform where kids under the age of 13 are encouraged to share content online is contrary to that interest,” the coalition of attorneys general wrote.

The letter cited research that shows link between young person’s use of social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behaviour, and suicidal tendency.

It also pointed to several experts highlighting how Instagram can exploit a young person’s “fear of missing out” as the platform can relentlessly focus on appearance. and present challenges to children’s privacy and wellbeing.

The state AGs noted that children do not have a developed understanding of privacy and that they may not be able to make decisions on what content is appropriate for them to share. Besides, they are too young to navigate challenges of social media such as online relationships where other users, including predators, can disguise their identities behind the internet.

Officials called out Facebook’s poor record in protect safety and privacy of children on its platform, despite claims that its products have strict privacy controls.

They highlighted that in 2019, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, intended for kids between the ages of 6 -12, contained a design flaw that allowed children to bypass restrictions on online interactions and join group chats with strangers.

“These alarming failures cast doubt on Facebook’s ability to protect children on their proposed Instagram platform and comply with relevant privacy laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” AGs said.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 11:24:07 AM |

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