Facebook should scrap plans for a children's version of the photo-sharing app Instagram, dozens of attorneys general urged Monday.
“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,” attorneys general from 42 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands say in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.”
Earlier this year, Zuckerberg confirmed to Congress that the company plans to create a version of the service for kids under the age of 13.
The attorneys general argue that young children aren't able “to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including inappropriate content and online relationships where other users, including predators, can cloak their identities using the anonymity of the internet.”
The law enforcement officials add that Facebook has previously fallen short when it comes to protecting children online. For instance, in 2019 a glitch in the company's Messenger Kids app, for children between 6 and 12, allowed the young users to communicate with unapproved adults.
The attorneys general aren't the only ones raising concerns about the planned service aimed at children.
Last month, more than 90 advocacy groups -- including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and creators of the documentary “The Social Dilemma” -- also urged Facebook to abandon plans to launch a children's version of Instagram.
Federal lawmakers, including Senators Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), and Reps. Kathy Castor (D-Florida) and Lori Trahan (D-Massachusetts), have also raised concerns about the planned initiative.
“Children are a uniquely vulnerable population online, and images of kids are highly sensitive data,” the lawmakers said last month in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
A spokesperson says the company has "just started exploring" plans for a child-oriented version of Instagram, and intends to consult with outside experts -- including privacy advocates and experts in child development -- as well as lawmakers and regulators.
The spokesperson adds the company doesn't plan to show ads in a children's version of Instagram.
Facebook doesn't allow anyone under 13 on Instagram or Facebook.com, but many young children use the services despite the companies' official policies. A spokesperson said last month that the company is working on new age-verification methods to keep children 12 and under off the current version of Instagram.