Lawmakers are going after Facebook’s development of Instagram for kids, after a report showed it knew the social media app is toxic for teen girls

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Lawmakers are coming after Facebook for its Instagram for Kids project after a bombshell report from the Wall Street Journal. SOPA Images/Getty Images
  • Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are calling on Facebook to stop making Instagram for Kids.
  • They’re incensed by an investigation that showed Facebook knew Instagram usage is harming teenage girls.
  • Instagram for Kids has received backlash from parents, child safety groups, and lawmakers since it was revealed in March.
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Lawmakers are renewing their push to make Facebook halt its development of a version of Instagram for children under age 13, after a Wall Street Journal investigation released Tuesday showed the company knew from internal research that the app is harmful to teen girls.

A bipartisan pair of senators leading the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security Subcommittee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, said on Tuesday they’re launching a probe into Facebook’s research and its platforms’ negative impact on young people.

“We are in touch with a Facebook whistleblower and will use every resource at our disposal to investigate what Facebook knew and when they knew it,” read their joint statement. They also said the WSJ’s report “may only be the tip of the iceberg.”

Blumenthal and Blackburn wrote to CEO Mark Zuckerberg in August, asking him to release Facebook’s internal research on the “mental health and well-being concerns” its social media apps might have on children and teens. WSJ reported that Facebook responded with a six-page letter to the senators.

“When given the opportunity to come clean to us about their knowledge of Instagram’s impact on young users, Facebook provided evasive answers that were misleading and covered up clear evidence of significant harm,” wrote the senators in their Tuesday statement.

Separately, a group of Democratic lawmakers also filed a letter to Zuckerberg on Wednesday. Congresswomen Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan and Sen. Edward Markey wrote to the CEO, strongly urging him to stop the development of new platforms for kids and teens.

Facebook’s internal findings “paint a clear and devastating picture of Instagram as an app that poses significant threats to young people’s wellbeing,” the lawmakers wrote. They added that they were “deeply concerned” that Facebook “continues to fail in its obligation to protect young users.”

Castor, Trahan, and Markey first highlighted their concerns about Instagram for Kids in an April letter to Zuckerberg.

Opposition has been broiling against Instagram for Kids since it was first reported by BuzzFeed in March. Parents, child safety groups, and 44 state-attorney generals have asked Zuckerberg to cancel Instagram for Kids.

Karina Newton, Instagram’s head of public policy, responded to the WSJ investigation in a blog post on Tuesday.

“While the story focuses on a limited set of findings and casts them in a negative light, we stand by this research,” she wrote.

“Social media isn’t inherently good or bad for people. Many find it helpful one day, and problematic the next. What seems to matter most is how people use social media, and their state of mind when they use it,” Newton wrote.

Newton said Instagram has taken steps to help users protect themselves from bullying and is focusing on addressing negative body image issues that arise from social media.

Facebook did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.