Vermont, New Hampshire, New York join coalition probing Instagram’s effects on kids

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A group of state attorneys general are investigating the photo-sharing platform Instagram and its effects on children and young adults, saying its parent company Facebook — now called Meta Platforms — ignored internal research about the physical and mental health dangers it posed to young people. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

State attorneys general from Vermont, New Hampshire and New York have joined a bipartisan coalition investigating the photo-sharing platform Instagram and its effects on children and young adults.

The coalition argues that Instagram’s parent company Facebook — now called Meta Platforms — ignored internal research about the physical and mental health dangers it posed to young people. The investigation follows damning newspaper reports, first by The Wall Street Journal, based on the company’s own research that found that the company knew about the harms Instagram can cause teenagers — especially teen girls — when it comes to mental health and body image issues.

“Parents and caregivers have long been concerned with the negative impact of social media on children,” said Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan. “Recent revelations have confirmed those concerns, and it’s time to act. That’s why Vermont is co-leading this bipartisan investigation.” 

Since the initial reports, a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press, have published their own findings based on leaked documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who has testified before Congress and a British parliamentary committee about what she found.

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New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said the the multistate investigation will scrutinize Meta’s business practices to determine if they put young people at risk in violation of New Hampshire law.  

“I, along with many other attorneys general, am troubled and concerned about the effects that social media platform engagement policies have on the safety and wellbeing of New Hampshire’s youth,” Formella said    

The investigation targets, among other things, the techniques Meta uses to keep young people on its platforms — and the harms that extended time spent on Instagram can cause.

“These social media platforms are extremely dangerous and have been proven to cause both physical and mental harm in young people,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “Time and again, Mark Zuckerberg and the companies he run have put profits over safety, but our investigation seeks to end that behavior.”

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In a statement, Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw called the accusations “false” and said they demonstrate “a deep misunderstanding of the facts.”

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