Facebook Monday announced that it has paused the development of an Instagram app for kids. The decision came after a widespread backlash from users as well as growing pressure from lawmakers. However, “pausing” the work isn’t what the lawmakers and advocacy groups wanted. They are calling on the company to outright abandon the development and shelve the plan for once and all.
“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” the statement reads. “Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know that Congress must step in. We urge our colleagues to join us in this effort and pass this critical legislation.”
Senator Edward J. Markey, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representative Kathy Castor, and Representative Lori Trahan have signed onto the statement. They promised to re-introduce the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act. This will give young internet users legislative protection against services that may affect their wellbeing.
Facebook under scrutiny over its planned Instagram for kids app
The Wall Street Journal earlier this month published a chilling report claiming that Facebook is aware of the harm Instagram causes to young people. The publication cited leaked internal documents to reveal that the photo-sharing app injects insecurity regarding body image on teenage girls.
“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said a leaked presentation slide from 2019. “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” revealed another slide from March 2020.
Facebook initially refused the claims saying the report is not accurate. The company continued with the development of a version of Instagram targeting kids under 13. However, growing backlash across the world eventually forced it to pause the development. Facebook is now being called on to abandon the plan entirely.
Meanwhile, Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn have called a hearing to discuss the matter with company executives this week. Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, will testify at the hearing titled “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms” on Thursday.
“Big Tech’s pattern of choosing profit over the wellbeing of young users is extremely concerning & we must hold them accountable,” Blackburn said in a statement (via The Verge). Time will tell whether Facebook manages to satisfy the lawmakers and proceeds with the development of the app. Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the company will consult the matter with parents and safety groups. But it also has some legal hurdles to overcome.