Eight US states have launched an investigation into how Meta is distributing Instagram to children and young adults. Research by Meta itself would show that Instagram can be harmful; the states attorneys general want to see if Meta has broken the law.
The investigation focuses on delivering and promoting Instagram to children and young adults, “despite the company’s knowledge that use of the app is linked to physical and mental health issues.” The attorneys general of the states of California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont therefore want to investigate whether Meta has violated consumer rights and posed a risk to the public.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says Meta has failed to protect young children on his platforms. “Instead, the company chose to ignore known manipulations that pose health risks, or sometimes even step up their use.”
The attorneys general want to look at, among other things, the techniques that Meta uses to increase the frequency of Instagram use and how Meta ensures that young users stay longer on the platform. In addition, the attorneys general want to investigate what harmful consequences this has.
The investigation follows Meta’s own investigation, which The Wall Street Journal reported on earlier. For example, this study would say that for 32 percent of teenage girls who use the app and are insecure about their bodies, Instagram would exacerbate this insecurity. Also, the pressure to conform to “social stereotypes” would worsen teens’ mental health.
Meta herself says that the results of the study are “more mixed”, with many people saying that Instagram has a positive influence on their lives. In addition, the company said it will improve Instagram based on the research. Meta tells CNN, among other things, that the attorney general’s allegations are incorrect and “demonstrate that the facts are not understood.”