NY AG, Others Urge Facebook to Ditch ‘Instagram for Kids’ Proposal

A bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general, including New York AG Letitia James, wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to drop the company’s plans for a version of Instagram for children under 13. years, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said on Monday.

“I call on @Facebook to drop their plans to create a version of @ Instagram for kids under 13. It’s a dangerous idea that can harm and directly endanger children,” James wrote on Twitter.

The attorneys general of the letter said they were concerned about the effects of social media on the physical and emotional well-being of children, the potential for increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators and what they called the ‘dossier checkered pattern ”of Facebook regarding the protection of children on its platforms.

“It seems that Facebook does not meet a need, but creates one, because this platform is mainly aimed at children who do not have or do not have an Instagram account,” said the letter, signed by the attorneys general for 40 states, the District of Columbia and three US territories.

Children under the age of 13 are technically not allowed to use the Instagram app in its current form due to federal privacy regulations. But Facebook in March confirmed a Buzzfeed News report, saying it “explores a parent-controlled experiment” on Instagram.

“It is a shame that Facebook is ignoring the very real threat that social media poses to the safety and well-being of young children in an attempt to take advantage of a vulnerable segment of our population,” Healey said in a statement.

Facebook, in a statement, said Monday that it was exploring Instagram for Kids to give parents more control over what children already online are exposed to, that it will do everything it can to protect children and that ‘it would not display advertising on the platform.

“We are developing these experiences in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates,” the company said. “We also look forward to working with lawmakers and regulators, including the country’s attorneys general.”

Facebook also pointed out that it was a founding sponsor of the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Digital Wellness Lab, launched in March to study the effects of digital technology on children’s “brains, bodies and behaviors”.

The attorneys general’s effort is supported by Campaign for an Ad-Free Childhood.

“Facebook faces a critical choice: will they continue with their ill-conceived plan to trap young children, or will they listen to the growing chorus of parents, experts, advocates, lawmakers and regulators who tell them that will a children’s Instagram site compromise the healthy development of young children and their right to privacy? Executive Director Josh Golin said in a statement.

Facebook came under similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for kids to chat with parent-approved family members and friends.

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