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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Instagram in Hot Water? US States Begin Probing App’s Effects on Children

According to Fox Business, a bipartisan group of US state attorneys general has begun an investigation into Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, over the parent company’s social networking app Instagram’s effects on children.

The investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal, involves at least eight states and revolves around “the strategies utilized by Meta to boost the frequency and duration of engagement by young users, as well as the resulting harms caused by such protracted involvement.”

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement announcing the “nationwide” investigation, according to Fox News.

“Doesn’t matter if you call it Instagram, Facebook, or Meta, the fact still remains the same: These social media platforms are extremely dangerous and have been proven to cause both physical and mental harm in young people,” said Democratic New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement announcing her support for the coalition.

“Time and time again, (Meta CEO) Mark Zuckerberg and the corporations he runs have prioritized money over safety, but our inquiry aims to put an end to it,” James added. “Our alliance will take whatever steps are required to protect children and young adults from the hazards that Instagram and other social media platforms pose to so many.”

According to the report, the investigation comes after The Wall Street Journal reported in September that Instagram’s own internal research indicates that the platform, which is largely focused on photos and subjects’ appearance, could have a negative impact on a significant percentage of users — particularly those with issues surrounding body image, such as young girls — could have a negative impact on a substantial percentage of users.

“These charges are incorrect and indicate a fundamental ignorance of the facts,” a Meta representative said in a statement in reaction to the probe. While issues in protecting young people online affect the entire business, we’ve been at the forefront of preventing bullying and aiding people who are experiencing suicide ideation, self-injury, or eating disorders.

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