Coalition of States Investigate Instagram’s Effects on Children

A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general said Thursday it is investigating how Instagram attracts and affects young people, amping up the pressure on parent company Meta Platforms, Inc. over potential harms to its users, the Wall Street Journal reported. According to the Wall Street Journal, the attorneys general said they are investigating whether the company, formerly known as Facebook, violated consumer protection laws and put the public at risk.

As you may recall, in September of 2021, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Facebook Knows Instagram is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show”.

The documents leaked to the Wall Street included information in which a study by Facebook found that teen Instagram users in the UK and US found that more than 40% of those who reported feeling “unattractive” and said the feelings started when using Instagram. The documents also stated that Facebook found that among teens who had suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of UK users and 6 percent of US users said these impulses could be tracked back to Instagram.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the attorneys general include California, Texas, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, New Jersey and Vermont.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said, “For too long, Meta has ignored the havoc that Instagram is wreaking on the mental health and well-being of our children and teens. Enough is enough. We’ve undertaken this nationwide investigation to get answers about Meta’s efforts to promote the use of this social media platform to young Californians – and determine if, in doing so, Meta violated the law.”

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said, “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 laws.”

It seems to me that it is time for Facebook (Meta) to possibly face some consequences. When a bipartisan collation of attorneys general work together on something, it seems likely they will be able to enforce changes.