Following reports Facebook has conducted and reviewed research showing a connection between Instagram and mental health problems among young users, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Lori Trahan (MA-03) wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today, demanding answers and calling for the company to abandon its plans to develop an Instagram for Kids platform. The recently revealed internal Facebook research includes data on the connections between Instagram use and body image problems, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health challenges among teens on the platform.
“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. As the internet—and social media specifically—becomes increasingly engrained in children and teens’ lives, 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,” said the lawmakers in their letter to Zuckerberg. “The recently uncovered evidence published in the Wall Street Journal underscores Facebook’s responsibility to fundamentally change its approach to engaging with children and teens online. That starts with Facebook abandoning its plans to launch a new version of Instagram for kids.”
In April, Senators Markey and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representatives Castor and Trahan wrote to Zuckerberg regarding Facebook’s announcement that the company is “exploring” plans to develop a version of Instagram for children and expressed concerns about Facebook’s past failures to protect children on Facebook’s Messenger Kids app. In May, after the company failed to make meaningful commitments to protect kids online, the lawmakers released a statement calling on Facebook to abandon its plans for the children’s platform. Previously, Senator Markey has repeatedly pressed Facebook on its failures to protect children and teens, including during Mark Zuckerberg’s 2018 appearance before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.