Facebook suspends plan to launch Instagram Kids app amid criticism

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Updates from Facebook Inc

Facebook has suspended plans to launch Instagram Kids, a version of its photo-sharing app for children under 13, as a backlash against the project gathered pace in Washington.

Adam Mosseri, who manages the Facebook-owned app, denied that the decision to “pause” development work on Instagram Kids was an admission that the concept was a “bad idea,” and said he was creating a stand-alone app. giving parents more control and supervision. was always the “right thing to do”.

But Mosseri said in a declaration Monday: “I hear the concerns about this project, and we’re announcing these steps today so we can get it right. ”

This decision comes after an investigation by the the Wall Street newspaper found that Facebook’s own internal research previously found that using Instagram can adversely affect aspects of many teens’ well-being, such as body image. The report, based on documents leaked by an anonymous whistleblower who has since met with several members of Congress to discuss the matter, suggested the company had buried the findings.

Facebook fiercely disputed the presentation by the WSJ of its research. However, he said delaying the launch of Instagram Kids would give him more time to incorporate feedback from policymakers, parents and child safety activists, as the call for stronger protection attracts more attention. growing coalition of bipartisan support for Capitol Hill.

Following the report, a group of lawmakers from the two houses of Congress wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, urging the company to share its research and abandon its plans for the Instagram Kids app.

The plans have also been a source of internal frustration, according to staff members. An app employee said that in March, ahead of the WSJ report, some expressed concern about the project, adding that the debate over children’s use of social media “left a bad taste in the community. people’s mouths ”.

Another former executive said the reputational risk of launching the project is now significant. “Anyone can join the kids,” the person said.

The company has agreed to send Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of security, to appear this Thursday before a Senate trade commission on the protection of children online.

Many children have spent more time online in the past 18 months during pandemic shutdowns, sparking increasing calls for big tech companies to go further in protecting their mental health and monitoring potential abuse.

Facebook argued that it’s better – and more convenient – to create safe digital spaces for children, where parents are more able to monitor what they’re doing, than to try to stop them from going altogether. in line.

But parent groups and politicians have taken aim at Instagram, saying it can hook young users on its endless scroll, invade their privacy at a vulnerable age and make them needlessly worried about their appearance.

New UK regulations came into effect earlier this month designed to protect children online, including checking their age and ensuring a ‘high level of privacy by default’.

In March, after Instagram Kids’ plans were announced, Zuckerberg was grilled by U.S. lawmakers during a hearing over charges that Facebook was designed to attract young users and could expose them to dangerous content. . Shortly after, 44 US attorneys general wrote to Zuckerberg asking him to drop the plans, saying it would be “harmful for many reasons.”


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