New York State Attorney General urges Facebook CEO to abandon launch of Instagram Kids

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A man holds a smart phone with the icons for the social networking apps Facebook, Instagram and Twitter seen on the screen in Moscow on March 23, 2018. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB)- Instagram for kids? New York State Attorney General Letitia James says not so fast.

She’s calling on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to launch a new version of Instagram for children under 13.

James sent a letter to the CEO Monday, along with 44 attorney generals, asking Zuckerberg to halt his plans, saying social media can be harmful to young children and that Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.

“Without a doubt, this is a dangerous idea that risks the safety of our children and puts them directly in harm’s way,” said  James. “Not only is social media an influential tool that can be detrimental to children who are not of appropriate age, but this plan could place children directly in the paths of predators. “

The coalition of attorney generals argue there is also a risk that predators may exploit children online and hide their identities citing a report that found an increase of 200 percent in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over a six-month period in 2018. In 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images.

They highlight the company’s record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children noting the Facebook’s Messenger Kids app contained a glitch that allowed children to circumvent restrictions and join group chats with strangers.

“There are too many concerns to let Facebook move forward with this ill-conceived idea, which is why we are calling on the company to abandon its launch of Instagram Kids. We must continue to ensure the health and wellness of our next generation and beyond,” James said.

With children spending more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic, the group says these issues have likely been exacerbated.

Kelly Khatib is a digital reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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