U.S. state AGs urge Facebook to cancel plans for Instagram for younger kids


FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A group of 40 state attorneys general on Monday urged Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.

"Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account," the officials said in a letter.

"Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms," they said.

The letter also signed by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories.

A Facebook spokesman said the company has "just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids" and said it was committing "to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13".

The company said it agreed any version of the photo-sharing app Instagram "must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it".

The bipartisan letter, which was signed by the attorneys general of New York, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, Kentucky and others said "it appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one".

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said on Twitter that a children's Instagram "is a shameful attempt to exploit and profit off vulnerable people".

The letter said media reports from 2019 showed that Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, intended for kids between the ages of six and 12, "contained a significant design flaw that allowed children to circumvent restrictions on online interactions and join group chats with strangers that were not previously approved by the children’s parents".

Last month, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also called on Zuckerberg not to create a kids version, saying it would put them at "great risk."

(Reporting by David Shepardson, editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Carmel Crimmins and Estelle Shirbon)

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