44 AGs Look for Facebook to Abandon Instagram for Kids
May 11, 2021
Attorney Generals took action to secure the safety and well-being of children
across the United States. As part of the coalition Attorney General James today
sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg
urging him to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under
the age of 13. The coalition contends that social media can be detrimental to
children for myriad reasons and that Facebook has historically failed to protect
the welfare of children on its platforms.
“Without a doubt, this is a dangerous idea that risks the safety of our children
and puts them directly in harm’s way,” said Attorney General James. “Not only is
social media an influential tool that can be detrimental to children who are not
of appropriate age, but this plan could place children directly in the paths of
predators. There are too many concerns to let Facebook move forward with this
ill-conceived idea, which is why we are calling on the company to abandon its
launch of Instagram Kids. We must continue to ensure the health and wellness of
our next generation and beyond.”
In today’s letter, the attorneys general express various concerns over
Facebook’s proposal, including:
Research indicating that social media can be harmful to the physical,
emotional, and mental well-being of children;
Rapidly worsening accounts of cyberbullying on Instagram;
Use of the platform by predators
to target children;
Facebook’s unstable record in
protecting the welfare of children on its platforms; and
Children’s lack of capacity to
navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including advertising,
inappropriate content, and relationships with strangers.
At a congressional hearing in March,
Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that social media is harmful to children, despite
strong data and research that has shown a link between young people’s use of
social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and
suicidality. Instagram has been frequently flagged for increasing suicidal
ideation, depression, and body image concerns in children.
The coalition of attorneys general argue that young children are not equipped to
handle the many challenges that come with having an Instagram account, including
that they often lack a developed understanding of privacy. There is also a risk
that predators may exploit children online and cloak their identities using the
anonymity of the internet. One report found an increase of 200 percent in
recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over a
six-month period in 2018. In 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20
million child sexual abuse images.
Cyberbullying is also a major concern, and a 2017 survey found that 42 percent
of young Instagram users had experienced cyberbullying on the platform — the
highest percentage of any platform measured. As children spend more time online
during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, these issues have
likely been exacerbated.
the attorneys general 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 (COPPA). They point out that the
company has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children.
For instance, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app contained a glitch that allowed
children to circumvent restrictions and join group chats with strangers.
Joining Attorney General James in sending today’s letter are the attorneys
general of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois,
Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington,
Wisconsin, Wyoming, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Guam, the
Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.