U.S. Attorneys General investigate Instagram’s impact on children and Meta’s techniques to increase engagement

Led by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a nationwide investigation has been launched into Meta (former Facebook) for promoting Instagram in such a way that puts children and young adults at harm. The probe will focus on the violation of consumer protection laws by Meta. 

A whistleblower accused Meta of prioritizing profits over the wellbeing of children and a report by WSJ based on Facebook’s leaked internal research revealed damning findings that Instagram is harmful for up to 20% of teenage girls. The three years long study stated that the portrayal of physical attractiveness and social images on Instagram caused anxiety issues and led to a high risk of suicide.  

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A bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General to probe the social, emotional, and physical effects of Instagram on children and young adults

Attorney General Shapiro is joined by attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont in his investigation into Meta social media platforms. The announcement press release acknowledges the findings of Meta’s internal research which shows Instagram’s use is associated with “increased risks of physical and mental health harms on young people, including depression, eating disorders, and even suicide.”

In addition, the probe will also investigate techniques used by Meta to increase the “frequency and duration” of young users’ engagement on its social media platforms and the resulting harms caused by prolonged engagement. He said:

“We must do more to keep our children safe online — from both predatory people and predatory companies who put them at risk. Social media companies have a responsibility to keep their users safe and disclose risks associated with their platforms. Our investigation will help determine whether Facebook failed in its responsibility to protect children online and will help us determine how to stop these companies from continuing to put children at risk for their own profit.”

Maybe as a preemptive measure, Instagram recently announced that it’s testing a new “Take a Break” opt-in feature which will allow users to set up to 30 minutes maximum duration of receive reminders to take a break and engage in an activity of the app. Meta had also planned to introduce an Instagram version for 13 years and below children but later pulled the plug.

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Addicted to social media and in love with iPhone, started blogging as a hobby. And now it's my passion for every day is a new learning experience. Hopefully, manufacturers will continue to use innovative solutions and we will keep on letting you know about them.

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