According to a press release put out by the National Association of Attorneys Generals (NAAG), a coalition of 44 state and territory attorneys general want Instagram’s owner, Facebook Inc., to set aside its plans to launch a version of the social photo sharing app for children under the age of 13. Currently, the age group is barred from using the service by Instagram policies. The six-page letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cites concerns about children’s welfare.
The attorneys general point out several flaws with Facebook’s proposed app, including research demonstrating that social media has deleterious physical, emotional, and mental effects on children. The letter also discusses the “rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram.”
As for online bullying, the attorneys general argued that the new Instagram platform could very well exacerbate the problem. In support of their contention, the attorneys general cited a 2017 survey which concluded that 42% of young Instagram users had experienced cyberbullying, the highest percentage of any platform surveyed.
In addition, the attorneys general appealed to Zuckerberg, claiming that the platform could be used by predators to target children. “In 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images,” the letter reads.
The coalition also mentioned Facebook’s “checkered record” of protecting the welfare of children on its platforms. By way of example, the letter highlights a “significant design flaw” in Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, that permitted children to circumvent online interaction restrictions and join group chats with strangers not previously approved by their parents.
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account. In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons. The attorneys general urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch this new platform,” the letter concluded.