Meta’s efforts to encourage healthy habits of using teenagers are not enough for some state officials. New York Times reports that a coalition of state attorneys has launched an investigation into the effects of Instagram on teenagers. California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Vermont are concerned that Meta could offer and promote Instagram to younger audiences, knowing the potential for mental and physical injuries. If so, the social media giant could violate state consumer protection laws.
Researchers are most concerned about Meta’s techniques for increasing the “frequency and duration” of interactions at the expense of teenagers. An internal study that leaked found that Instagram hurt a significant percentage of teenagers, especially girls, resulting in problems ranging from depression to self-harm.
A spokesman for Meta told Engadget that the accusations were “false” and showed a “deep misunderstanding” of the situation. You can read the full statement below. He had previously shared research data and argued that the leak misrepresented her work, giving a “context” that suggests that certain information cannot be used to draw conclusions about average behavior or links to mental and physical injuries.
Meta has taken some steps to address her concerns, including encouraging her to take breaks and “pausing” work on Instagram Kids. There is also no certainty that the investigation will lead to more concrete action. However, the company is under much greater pressure to protect teenagers – it could face legal consequences if states do not feel it has done enough.
These accusations are false and show a deep misunderstanding of the facts. Although the challenges of protecting young people online affect the entire industry, we have led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm and eating disorders. We continue to build new features to help people who may be facing negative social comparisons or body image issues, including our new ‘Rest’ feature and ways to encourage them towards other types of content if they are stuck on one topic. We continue to develop parental control controls and explore ways to provide even more age-appropriate experiences for teens by default.
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