The attorneys general of various states in the United States have announced this Thursday that they have opened an ijoint investigation about photo app Instagram and its impact on minors.
Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, faces one of its most serious reputation crises since a whistleblower leaked thousands of internal documents according to which company executives were aware of the harmful potential of their sites, causing a renewed impulse in the United States for the regulation of the social network.
“Facebook, now Meta, has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead chose to ignore or, in some cases, redouble manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health: exploiting children for the sake of make a profit, “Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.
The investigation aims to “scrupulously examine how this company interacts with young users, identify any illegal practices and put an end to abuses,” he said. It is co-led by representatives, Democrats and Republicans, from the states of California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont. The attorneys general of New York, Colorado and Texas also announced their participation.
Ban on Instagram for minors
In May, attorneys general from 44 states had sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to abandon his project to create a version of Instagram for children under 13. They cited research showing a correlation between social media use and “increased psychological distress and suicidal behavior among young people.” The group abandoned its initiative in September in the face of multiple criticisms.
A few weeks later during a hearing dedicated to the impact of Facebook and Instagram on young users, whistleblower Frances Haugen criticized the methods that make teenagers use Instagram in high doses, to the point that they often fall into forms of addiction.
Attorneys general, from states ruled by both Democrats and Republicans, said they are investigating whether Meta violated consumer protection laws and put the public at risk.
“When social media platforms treat our children as simple products to manipulate so that they spend more time in front of the screen and data is extracted, it is imperative that state attorneys general communicate with investigating authorities under the laws of protection of the consumer, “Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement.
For her part, New York Attorney General Letitia James spoke harshly against Mark Zuckerberg’s social media, which she said was “extremely dangerous and has been shown to cause both physical and mental harm to young people.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s called Instagram, Facebook or Meta, the facts remain the same,” said James, adding that “time and time again, Mark Zuckerberg and the companies he manages have prioritized profit over safety.”