Facebook announced this week that it was “suspending” work on a planned version of Instagram for children under 13, amid close scrutiny of the social media platform’s effects on young people.
But according to Senator Ed Markey and Representative Lori Trahan, “a ‘break’ is not enough.”
“Facebook has completely lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” the two Massachusetts Democrats said in a statement on Monday, alongside Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. and Representative Kathy Castor. from Florida.
The group first called on Facebook to abandon its “Instagram for Kids” project in a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg earlier this month, after the Wall Street Journal reported that the social media giant, Instagram owner, had conducted internal research showing that the photo-sharing app was harmful to a significant percentage of young users, especially teenage girls.
And even before that, they were skeptical. After the plans were first reported in April, the four Democrats sent a letter to Zuckerberg urging him on the protections the app would include, noting that the Messenger Kids app previously released by Facebook had a design flaw. allowing children to bypass restrictions.
“Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know Congress has to step in,” they said in their statement on Monday, adding that they would reintroduce a bill banning certain online ads and features. designs that encourage younger users to spend more time on apps.
Trahan, who has two young daughters, added on Twitter that Facebook should “publish all of its internal research and focus on the safety of its current services for users, especially young girls.”
Facebook, however, is sticking to its plans, at least for now.
In a blog post on Monday, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri wrote that while critics of “Instagram Kids” will see the hiatus “as an acknowledgment that the project is a bad idea,” it’s “not. the case”.
“The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is much better for parents than what we are today,” Mosseri wrote.
Technically, children under 13 are prohibited from using Facebook and Instagram, although many are simply lying about their age.
Mosseri said the planned children’s version of Instagram would be aimed at “tweens (ages 10 to 12)”. It would also require parental permission to register, have no ads, and include “age appropriate content and features.”
Yet Instagram Kids is only part of Facebook’s effort to attract younger users.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the company plans to create more products for tweens and has commissioned strategy papers on long-term business opportunities presented by the “precious but untapped audience.”
“With the ubiquity of tablets and phones, children can access the Internet from the age of six. We cannot ignore it and we have a responsibility to find out, ”said a confidential document in 2018, according to the Journal. “Imagine a Facebook experience designed for young people. “
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