The project to create a version of Instagram that allows those under 13 to use the platform, announced last March, has added a new setback. On Monday, attorneys general from 44 states and US territories have urged Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, to abandon these plans. The signatories collect their concerns about the privacy and safety of minors on social platforms and recall the controversial history of the social network in relation to the leakage of private data.
“The use of social networks can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children who are not equipped to face the challenges of having an account,” state officials in the letter, who in addition to the signatures of the attorneys general of 40 states includes that of the District Attorney for the District of Columbia and representatives of three United States territories. In their message to Zuckerberg they also reference the 2019 media reports that showed that the app Messenger Kids Facebook, intended for children between the ages of 6 and 12, “contained a significant design flaw that allowed children to bypass restrictions on online interactions and join group chats with strangers that had not been approved by the parents of the children. kids”.
The letter, signed by Republicans and Democrats, has among others the signatures of the attorneys general of New York, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Vermont and Kentucky. “It seems that Facebook does not respond to a need, but creates one,” says the letter and suggests that the social network “historically has failed to protect the well-being of children on its platforms.” One of the most critical voices has been that of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who has accused the social network project of being a “shameful attempt to exploit and take advantage of vulnerable people.”
A Facebook spokesperson has said to the agency Reuters that the company promised to “not show ads in any Instagram experience that we develop for people under the age of 13”. He also noted that Facebook had agreed that any version of the Instagram photo-sharing application “should prioritize your safety and privacy” and that they would consult “with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to report it.” But the promises of the social network – criticized for amplifying misinformation worldwide on its platforms – have not convinced either parents or the authorities.
It is not the first letter against Instagram for teenagers. In mid-April, the Campaign for an Advertising-Free Childhood (CCFC) sent a letter to Zuckerberg, to dissuade him from going ahead with the project. The letter was signed by together with 35 other organizations, among them the creators of the successful documentary The Social Dilemma, and organized groups from various countries, such as Ghana, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
“We agree that the current version of Instagram is not safe for children under the age of 13 and that something must be done to protect the millions of children who have lied about their age to create accounts, especially since their presence on the platform could be a violation of the Online Privacy Protection Act and the privacy laws of other nations. However, launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 is not the appropriate remedy and would put young users at great risk, ”said the spokespersons for the signatory organizations.