The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is calling on Facebook to scrap its plans to develop an Instagram platform specifically for children under the age of 13.
In an open letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, state attorneys general called for the plan to be abandoned because it wouldn’t be addressing a need. Instead, they say it would give rise to serious health and privacy concerns.
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the letter stated. “The attorneys general urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch this new platform.”
The letter is signed by 44 state-level attorneys general, including non-states like Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Collectively, those who signed the letter represent a majority of all U.S. states and territories.
“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,” the bipartisan group wrote.
In the letter, the NAAG underscored the huge legal risk that Facebook would be taking on if it decides to proceed with the project. Children under 13 are currently entitled to enhanced legal protections under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and state attorneys general have historically been vigilant in enforcing those protections.
Facebook said in a statement that it intends to prioritize safety and privacy on the Instagram for kids app. It also promised not to show any advertisements on the platform.
“We’ve just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids,” said Facebook policy representative Andy Stone. “We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general. In addition, we commit today to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”
Advocates raise concerns
The NAAG isn’t the only group that has expressed opposition to the idea of an Instagram for kids. Last month, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also sent a letter to Zuckerberg calling for Facebook to drop the idea.
In addition to privacy concerns, critics of the proposed platform argue that the app is inherently appropriate for a demographic going through rapid developmental changes.
“In the elementary and middle school years, children experience incredible growth in their social competencies, abstract thinking, and sense of self. Finding outlets for self-expression and connection with their peers become especially important,” the CCFC letter said. “We are concerned that a proposed Instagram for kids would exploit these rapid developmental changes.”