- Nine state AGs are investigating Meta over the harmful effects that Instagram can have on teens.
- The bipartisan group is accusing the firm of promoting Instagram despite knowing this harm.
- It follows a separate lawsuit as Meta fields what could be an onslaught of legal action prompted by the docs.
A bipartisan group of eight state attorneys general is investigating Facebook and Instagram over the harmful effects they can have on young users.
Per a press release from one of the AGs, Doug Peterson from Nebraska, the group is condemning Facebook, now called Meta, over what it says was the company promoting its Instagram platform to kids despite knowing its negative impact on children’s mental health.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.
Specifically, the group is looking into “the techniques utilized by Meta to increase the frequency and duration of engagement by young users and the resulting harms caused by such extended engagement.” They’re are also looking to see if Meta violated state consumer protection laws by doing so, per Peterson’s press release.
“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Peterson said in the press release. AGs from California, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, and Tennessee are also included in the coalition.
A Meta spokesperson told Insider that “these accusations are false and demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts. While challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we’ve led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders.”
The spokesperson also said Meta is working to develop parental supervision controls as well as other safety features.
The company has maintained the leaked documents do not paint a full picture of its efforts to police its platforms and weed out bad actors.
The investigation follows a rough few months for Meta after employee-turned whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents first to The Wall Street Journal and then to the wider press. She also testified before Congress that the company puts “profits over safety.”
Among the exposed evidence was that Facebook knew its platform was harming young users and undermined efforts to curb that harm. Users under 13 aren’t allowed to use Instagram, per its rules, but the company has acknowledged that many still do.
Meta was previously working on a kids-centric version of Instagram until this news surfaced, prompting a group of 40 state attorneys general to write a public letter urging Meta to shut its plans for the project down. The company did so in September, citing the backlash.
This new investigation also follows a lawsuit that Ohio Attorney General David Yost announced earlier this week accusing the company of violating federal securities law by failing to disclose internal research about its platforms’ harmful effects on children to investors.
Probes like these pose a bigger threat to Meta than regulation, experts previously told Insider, since they could force it to make more internal documents public that could provide “problematic evidence.”