State AGs Urge Facebook to Drop Children’s Instagram Plan

State AGs Urge Facebook to Drop Children's Instagram Plan maura healey speaks to press Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey speaks during a press conference at the office of the New York Attorney General, July 19, 2016, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By Eric Mack | Monday, 10 May 2021 01:08 PM

Citing dangers of children predators, a group of 40 state attorneys general wrote a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to drop plans to make an Instagram social media site for kids under the age of 13.

"Young children are not equipped to handle the range of challenges that come with having an Instagram account," the letter read. "Children do not have a developed understanding of privacy. Specifically, they may not fully appreciate what content is appropriate for them to share with others, the permanency of content they post on an online platform, and who has access to what they share online.

"They are also simply too young to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including inappropriate content and online relationships where other users, including predators, can cloak their identities using the anonymity of the Internet."

The letter was crafted by Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and signed by attorneys general around the U.S., including Washington, D.C., and 3 U.S. territories.

"Research increasingly demonstrates that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children," the letter read, adding, "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."

A Facebook spokesman said the company has "just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids" and said it was committing "to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13."

The company said it agreed any version of the photo-sharing app Instagram "must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it."

The bipartisan letter, which was signed by the attorneys general of New York, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, Kentucky, and others said "it appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one."

Healey tweeted a children's Instagram "is a shameful attempt to exploit and profit off vulnerable people."

The letter said media reports from 2019 showed that Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, intended for kids between the ages of six and 12, "contained a significant design flaw that allowed children to circumvent restrictions on online interactions and join group chats with strangers that were not previously approved by the children’s parents."

Last month, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also called on Zuckerberg not to create a kids version, saying it would put them at "great risk."

Material from Reuters was used in this report.