Tuesday, December 6, 2022

U.S. state attorneys general probe Instagram’s effect on kids

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of state attorneys general said that they had launched an investigation into Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms (FB.O), for advertising its subsidiary Instagram to youngsters despite the risks.

The inquiry, which involves at least nine states, comes at a time when Facebook’s approach to minors and young people is being scrutinized.

In emailed remarks, the attorney’s general said they are examining whether the company violated consumer protection rules and put young people at risk.

“Facebook, now Meta, has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead chose to ignore or, in some cases, double down on known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health – exploiting children in the interest of profit,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a news release.

A Meta spokesperson responded in a statement that “these accusations are false and demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts.”

“While challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we’ve led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders,” the spokesperson said.

They said that the firm is still working on parental supervision measures and is looking into ways to give age-appropriate activities for teens by default.

Instagram, like other social media platforms, has restrictions prohibiting children under the age of 13 from joining, although it has acknowledged that it has users of this age.

In September, the firm announced that it was postponing plans for a children’s version of Instagram, citing rising opposition to the initiative. Internal documents released by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen showed the firm understood Instagram might have detrimental mental health consequences on young girls, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation. The hacked data, according to Facebook, were used to present a false picture of the company’s efforts.

A group of more than 40 state attorneys had written to the business in recent months, urging it to abandon plans for the children’s app, and politicians had expressed worry.

Nebraska, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vermont, as well as New York and New Jersey, are among the states under scrutiny.