Facebook urged to abandon 'harmful' children's version of Instagram

A number of US attorneys general have written a letter to Mark Zuckerberg outlining their concerns about his plans for such a social media platform

Instagram has been urged to abandon plans to create a version of the app targeting pre-teens. Unsplash
Instagram has been urged to abandon plans to create a version of the app targeting pre-teens. Unsplash

Officials representing a majority of US states have called on Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to nix plans to launch a version of Instagram for children.

In a letter addressed to the founder and chief of the social network on Monday, 44 state attorneys general argued that such a service would be "harmful for myriad reasons".

Concerns included cyberbullying, predatory adults, mental well-being, and Facebook's missteps on data protection and privacy, according to New York Attorney General Letitia James.

"Not only is social media an influential tool that can be detrimental to children who are not of appropriate age, but this plan could place children directly in the paths of predators," James said.

"There are too many concerns to let Facebook move forward with this ill-conceived idea, which is why we are calling on the company to abandon its launch of Instagram Kids."

(FILES) This file picture taken on September 28, 2020 shows the logo of the social network Instagram on a smartphone, in Toulouse, southwestern France. Officials representing most US states on May 10, 2021 called on Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to nix plans to launch a version of Instagram for children. In a letter to the founder and chief of the leading social network, 44 state attorneys general argued that such a service would be "harmful for myriad reasons." / AFP / Lionel BONAVENTURE
Photo-sharing app Instagram is owned by social media platform Facebook. Reuters

The plea echoed concerns expressed by advocates for children, who also urged Zuckerberg to ditch plans for a version of Instagram geared towards pre-teens.

Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre were among nearly 100 groups and individuals from North America, Europe, Africa and Australia to make the plea in a letter to Zuckerberg in April.

"In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons," the attorneys general said. "It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one."

Instagram is exploring the launch of a version of the image-centric social network for children under 13, with parental controls.

Facebook-owned Instagram, like its parent company, allows only those older than 13 to join but verifying age on the internet makes it challenging to catch all rule breakers.

"The reality is that kids are online," Facebook spokeswoman Stephanie Otway said in response to a prior inquiry.

Facebook is working with child development and mental health experts to prioritise safety and privacy, according to Otway.

Instagram, which has more than a billion users, recently unveiled technology aimed at preventing underage children from creating accounts and blocking adults from contacting young users they don't know.

The platform is also looking at ways to make it more difficult for adults who have been exhibiting "potentially suspicious behaviour" to interact with teens.

Updated: May 12, 2021 06:15 PM

SHARE

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS
Sign up to:

* Please select one