A group of US Democratic lawmakers on May 18 urged Facebook Inc to drop plans for a version of ‘Instagram for children’ younger than 13. In a joint statement, Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal and Representatives Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan said that the social media company had filed to “make meaningful commitments to protecting kids online”. They also noted that they had previously also written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and expressed concerns about the social media company’s past failures to protect children on Facebook’s Messenger Kids app.
The lawmakers said, “Facebook has a clear record of failing to protect children on its platforms. When it comes to putting people before profits, Facebook has forfeited the benefit of the doubt, and we strongly urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids”.
Facebook has a clear record of failing to protect children on its platforms and won’t make commitments to ensure that its proposed Instagram Kids app does not harm young users’ mental health and threaten their privacy. The company needs to abandon Instagram for Kids. pic.twitter.com/hddTGSn5mt
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) May 18, 2021
The joint statement from the Democratic lawmakers comes after a bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general last week wrote to Zuckerberg urging him to drop company plans for a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. According to AP, the attorneys general in the letter said that they are concerned about social media’s effect on the physical and emotional well-being of children, the potential for increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators, and what they called Facebook’s “checkered record” in protecting children on its platforms.
“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,” said the letter.
The attorneys general added, “It’s shameful 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 profit off of a vulnerable segment of our population”.
Facebook will consult experts in child safety
Facebook, on the other hand, has said that it is simply “exploring” Instagram for kids and would make every effort to protect children and would not show advertising on such a platform. The social media firm said that before rolling out the app, they will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. It even pointed that it is a founding sponsor of the Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital, launched in March to study the effects of digital technology on kids’ “brains, bodies, and behaviours”.