US to investigate Instagram’s negative impact on teens’ physical and mental health | #socialmedia | #children

A bipartisan coalition of US state attorneys general on Thursday, Nov. 18 opened an investigation against the promotion of the photo-sharing platform Instagram for children, days after a former employee turned whistleblower exposed the parent company Meta’s harmful company policies.

The trove of documents released by former data scientist Frances Haugen revealed that the platform has a negative impact on the mental health of teens as it flared the body image insecurities. These techniques, the whistleblower alleged, were used by Meta to keep young people on its platforms Facebook and Instagram, and the company deliberately operated such algorithms despite an awareness of its potential harms. 

According to a press release issued by the Missouri state’s attorney general office on Nov.18,  a nationwide investigation was launched into Meta Platforms, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, for providing and promoting its social media platform – Instagram – to children and young adults. The office stressed that the company inhibited the antitrust behaviour despite knowing that such use is associated with physical and mental health harms among the youngsters. 

The probe will determine whether Meta violated state consumer protection laws and put the public at risk. It will target, among other things, the techniques utilized by Meta on its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram for boosting the frequency and the duration of engagement by young users. Attorney General Schmitt and other attorneys will also determine the harm and negative impact caused by such extended engagement of the platform. 

“Protecting children is of the utmost importance as the State’s attorney general, joining with a broad group of attorneys general, we’re launching an investigation into Meta and Instagram’s practices, especially as it relates to increasing the frequency that younger users engage with content on their platform,” said Attorney General Schmitt.

“Big tech giants are not above the law, and I look forward to working with attorneys general across the country to protect our children,” he added, according to the press release issued by his office. 

Platforms, Facebook, Instagram target ‘vulnerable people’, including kids

A former Facebook employee, whistleblower Frances Haugen had released a trove of documents exposing Facebook and photo-sharing platform Instagram’s internal policies as she testified before the members of Congress alleging that the parent company Facebook – now called Meta Platforms –that also owns Instagram have been “operating in the shadows and hiding its research from public scrutiny” implementing the detrimental policies that targeted the vulnerable people, including the kids online who were systematically “harmed by [Facebook/Instagram’s] systems.”

Facebook’s ex- data scientist stated in her shocking testimony that the platform is “designed to exploit negative emotions to keep people on it.” “They are aware of the side effects of the choices they have made around amplification. They know that algorithmic-based rankings, or engagement-based rankings, keep you on their sites longer. You have longer sessions, you show up more often, and that makes them more money,” Haugen said in her testimony. 

“For too long, Meta has ignored the havoc that Instagram is wreaking on the mental health and well-being of our children and teens.” “Enough is enough. We’ve undertaken this nationwide investigation to get answers about Meta’s efforts to promote the use of this social media platform to young Californians – and to determine if, in doing so, Meta violated the law.”

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