Science, Technology, and Social Media

Lawmakers, Child Advocates Say They Aren’t Satisfied With Facebook’s Latest Bid To Protect Kids

Lawmakers and advocacy groups say Facebook’s decision to stop work on a version of its social media platform Instagram specifically aimed at children isn’t enough, demanding the project be abandoned altogether.

“Pausing Instagram Kids is not enough. They need to abolish the program completely,” Rep. Ken Buck tweeted Monday. “Facebook knows it is toxic for our kids, they simply don’t care.”

Facebook announced it had suspended the project Monday, citing its desire to confer with “parents, experts, policymakers and regulators” before developing it further. The decision to pause the project follows an investigation by The Wall Street Journal which found Facebook had conducted research into Instagram and was aware the platform is harmful to teen users.

“Facebook’s decision to pause ‘Instagram Kids’ is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safe environment, but there is still much work to be done,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn said in a tweet. “Big Tech’s pattern of choosing profit over the wellbeing of young users is extremely concerning & we must hold them accountable.”

Blackburn, along with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, is leading an investigation into Facebook’s knowledge of how Instagram harms teen users. The senators have been in contact with a Facebook whistleblower who shared internal documents showing Facebook’s knowledge of its platforms’ harms.

Child advocacy groups echoed the lawmakers’ concerns, remaining skeptical of Facebook’s commitment to the welfare of children.

“While we are glad Facebook paused its plans to introduce this app for kids, it needs to completely cancel this project,” Lina Nealon, director of corporate and strategic initiatives for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “Facebook must put children’s health and safety before their bottom line.”

“Their announcement that they are ‘pausing’ plans so that they can instead try to convince parents and anyone who will listen that there is a need for social media for kids under 13 is further proof that they don’t care about the harmful impacts social media has on the development of kids,” Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense, said in a statement.

Sen. Josh Hawley urged Facebook to be more transparent about how Instagram affects users, pushing the platform to share its knowledge.

“This is the least Instagram and Facebook can do. Now they need to release the full results of their internal research showing Instagram harms teenagers,” Hawley tweeted.

Facebook Spokesman Andy Stone said Sunday that Facebook is sharing some of its research with Congress ahead of a hearing on Instagram’s negative effects on users Thursday. Stone also said the company was weighing how to release the results to the public “at some point.”

Facebook declined to comment when asked about lawmakers’ responses.

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