Democratic lawmakers, child safety advocates, and 44 state attorneys general are pushing back against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to launch “Instagram Youth,” according to NPR. Opponents maintain that the platform could be harmful for teenagers, particularly young girls, and cite studies demonstrating how it negatively impacts the mental health of adolescents, even giving rise to suicidal ideation in some cases.
Members of the Senate Commerce Committee will proceed with their investigation of Zuckerberg’s company, aided by an anonymous “Facebook whistleblower.” On Wednesday, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and Representatives Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Lori Trahan (D-MA) sent Zuckerberg a letter outlining their concerns about the connection between Instagram use and psychological problems for younger kids.
“Children and teens are uniquely vulnerable populations online, and these findings paint a clear and devastating picture of Instagram as an app that poses significant threats to young people’s wellbeing,” they wrote. “We are deeply concerned that your company continues to fail in its obligation to protect young users and has yet to commit to halt its plans to launch new platforms targeting children and teens.”
Lawmakers are now trying to determine whether Zuckerberg has personally reviewed his own company’s research on the mental health ramifications of social media use for children and teens.
Internal Facebook studies show that 32 percent of teenage girls said Instagram caused them to feel substantially worse when they already had negative feelings about their bodies, according to The Wall Street Journal. With regard to children plagued by suicidal thoughts, the report states: “13 percent of British users and six percent of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram.”
In an attempt to defend Instagram Youth, Zuckerberg and other company executives have insisted that children under 13 are already on the platform despite its age limit, and thus argue that it makes sense to create a version of the app specifically for them, which would include parental controls.