State Attorneys are launching an investigation into the impact of Meta-owned Instagrams on children

Advocates say they will investigate whether Meta, by continuing to offer and promote Instagram despite knowing about the potential harms, violated consumer protection laws and “put the public at risk.” The states involved include California, Florida, Kentucky and Vermont.

“Facebook, now Meta, has failed to protect young people on its platforms and has instead chosen to ignore or in some cases double known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health – exploiting children in the interest of profit,” he said. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who is leading the investigation, in a statement. She added that the coalition hopes to “get to the bottom of this company’s engagement with young users, identify any illegal practices and end these abuses forever.”

Meta (FB) Spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement that the state attorney’s allegations were false, saying they “demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts.” He also noted that the company plans to launch features that help teens regulate their use of Instagram, such as a “Take a Break” reminder, which was announced in October under intense scrutiny.

“While challenges in protecting young people online affect the entire industry, we have led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm and eating disorders,” the statement said. “We continue to develop parental controls and explore ways in which we can, by default, provide even more age-appropriate experiences for teens.”

Senator urges Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about Instagram and children
The study is the latest escalation of regulatory pressure on Meta related to results from the leaked internal documents that have become known as Facebook Papers. Earlier this week, Ohio Attorney Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that it misled the public about its algorithm and the damage its apps can cause to users, causing losses to shareholders when these things were revealed. (Meta says the suit is unjustified.)
Senator Richard Blumenthal has also asked Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify about the effects of Instagram on children.
The Wall Street Journal reported in early September on what the company’s own documents and research show about the potential harm to young people from its apps, saying Facebook knew Instagram was “toxic” to teenage girls. In a 2019 internal report on the mental health effects of Instagram, quoted by the Journal and reviewed by CNN Business, the company’s researchers said “we make body image problems worse for 1 in 3 teenage girls.” Meta has also pushed back on the Journal’s reporting, saying its apps do more good than harm.
Following the Journal’s report, a Senate subcommittee convened a hearing with Facebook’s head of global security Antigone Davis, in which lawmakers grilled her on Instagram’s effects on children. Davis said the company was “looking for ways to release more research,” which she suggested could paint a different picture of the platform. Haugen has also testified to lawmakers that she believes Meta’s platforms “harm children, incite division and weaken our democracy.”

The company announced it was halting plans to develop a version of Instagram designed for children in late September, amid the fallout from the Journal report.

“While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we have decided to put this project on hold,” Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post at the time. “This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policy makers and regulators, to listen to their concerns and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project to younger teens online today.”

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