As criticism mounts from all corners, Facebook has “paused” its plans for a version of Instagram that was being developed for children under the age of 13.
The decision follows criticism by 44 state attorneys general, who called on the social media giant to abandon the project. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal also reported that Facebook found Instagram to be harmful for a sizable percentage of young users, most notably teenage girls, but continued to downplay those effects in public.
In its announcement, Facebook used language underlining that it did not plan to cancel the project. The announcement also said the companies would work with experts, policymakers, and parents as it moves forward. Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, says the company still believes “Instagram Kids” is the right thing to do.
“Critics of ‘Instagram Kids’ will see this [announcement] as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea,” he said in a blog post. “That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today. … I have three children and their safety is the most important thing in my life. I hear the concerns with this project, and we’re announcing these steps today so we can get it right.”
Facebook noted that there are versions of both Tik Tok and YouTube that are designed for children under 13 and said Instagram Kids would not be the same as the Instagram people know today. It would require parental permission to join, wouldn’t have ads and would have age-appropriate content and features.
Lawmakers, though, are firmly opposed.
“Without a doubt, this is a dangerous idea that risks the safety of our children and puts them directly in harm’s way,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Not only is social media an influential tool that can be detrimental to children who are not of appropriate age, but this plan could place children directly in the paths of predators. There are too many concerns to let Facebook move forward with this ill-conceived idea.”
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