Facebook’s plans to build a new version of Instagram that allows children under 13 to use the social network safely have crashed to the disapproval of parents, educational, technological and children’s associations and digital rights organizations, spearheaded by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC). This last association has sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to dissuade him from going ahead with the project. The CCFC letter comes at a time when the tech giant is coming under fire for amplifying misinformation globally on its platforms, while exposing children to inappropriate material.
“We agree that the current version of Instagram is not safe for children under the age of 13 and that something must be done to protect the millions of children who have lied about their age to create accounts, especially since their presence on the platform could be a violation of the Online Privacy Protection Act and the privacy laws of other nations. However, launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 is not the right remedy and would put young users at great risk ”, reads the letter published yesterday.
The CCFC, a non-profit organization that seeks to end marketing to children and is responsible for disclosing its negative effects, signs the letter along with 35 other organizations, among them the creators of the successful documentary The Social Dilemma, and organized groups from various countries, such as Ghana, Canada, Australia and South Africa.
The organization has also accused Instagram of “exploiting the fear of young people to miss something” (better known in English as Fear Of Missing Out), as it motivates them to constantly check their devices for approval. The platform’s continued focus on appearance and self-presentation would challenge the privacy and well-being of teens. So far, Facebook has not commented on the matter.
The figures also appear to be in favor of the CCFC. Multiple studies, some of them cited in the letter, have warned that continued exposure to screens and social networks is related to a series of risks for children and adolescents such as obesity, lower psychological well-being, decreased happiness and sleep quality, increase in risk of depression and even with him youth suicide. Additionally, 59% of teens have felt bullied on social media, according to the latest cyber bullying report del Pew Research Center.
And there is more. Only in 2020, Facebook and Instagram reported 21 million images of child sexual abuse by the National Council for Missing & Exploited Children (Ncmec). Instagram has also received criticism for not knowing how to respond to reports of exploitation in a timely manner while the increase in screen time due to the pandemic has further increased the risk of these damages.
A report published by the magazine The Atlantic inquires into Instagram users who seem to be trading child pornography using the #dropboxlinks tag to find and share explicit photos of underage children on the platform. In addition, a report published by EL PAÍS alerts about how Instagram algorithms favor the publications that show a lot of skin – such as those in underwear, strategic nudes (which use other parts of the body to cover themselves) or swimsuits – on top of the rest, allowing for more digital feedback (such as I like, comments and followers).
“While collecting valuable family data and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users can be good for Facebook’s bottom line, it is likely to increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to manipulative and exploitative characteristics. of the platform ”, concludes the letter.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.