COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and 43 of his colleagues are demanding that Facebook abandon its plan to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13 because it threatens their safety and well-being.
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the coalition of 44 attorneys general contend that social media can be detrimental to children for myriad reasons. Facebook owns Instagram.
“Facebook and Instagram already have too much control over what we see, hear and buy – and when you add in the dangers of online predators and cyberbullying, it’s unsafe for children,” Yost said. “Until Mr. Zuckerberg can prove that he’s doing more to police these platforms, he needs to stay away from our kids.”
Additionally, the attorneys general maintain, young children – partly due to their underdeveloped understanding of privacy – are ill-equipped to handle the many challenges associated with an Instagram account. There is also a risk that predators will cloak their identities using the anonymity of the internet and exploit children online.
At a congressional hearing in March, Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that social media is harmful to children, despite strong data and research identifying a link between young people’s use of social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior and suicidal thoughts. Researchers have frequently flagged Instagram as a contributor to suicidal ideation, depression, and body-image concerns among children.
In their letter, the attorneys general cast doubt on Facebook’s ability to protect children on the proposed Instagram platform and to comply with relevant privacy laws, such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). They also pointed out that the company has a history of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children. Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, for example, contained a glitch that allowed children to circumvent restrictions and join group chats with strangers.
Co-writing the letter with Yost were the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Nebraska, Tennessee and Vermont. Joining in signing the letter were the attorneys general of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.