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US lawmakers urge Facebook to drop plans for Instagram for kids

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“Facebook has a clear record of failing to protect children on its platforms.”

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WASHINGTON – A group of Democratic US lawmakers on Tuesday urged Facebook Inc to drop plans for a version of photo-sharing app Instagram for children younger than 13, saying the social media company had failed to make meaningful commitments to protecting kids online.

Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal and Representatives Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan said Facebook had not addressed their concerns. Facebook told the lawmakers in an April 26 letter made public on Tuesday that it does not have a set timeline for the version, but expects development will “take many months.”

“Facebook has a clear record of failing to protect children on its platforms,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement. “When it comes to putting people before profits, Facebook has forfeited the benefit of the doubt, and we strongly urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids.”

Last week, a group of 40 state attorneys general also urged Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to abandon those plans.

A Facebook spokesman said on Tuesday “as every parent knows, kids are already online. We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing.”

The company said previously it will not show ads in any Instagram version for people under 13.

The letter from the state attorneys general cited 2019 media reports that Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, intended for kids between the ages of six and 12, “contained a significant design flaw that allowed children to circumvent restrictions on online interactions and join group chats with strangers that were not previously approved by the children’s parents.”

Last month, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also called on Zuckerberg not to create a kids version, saying it would put them at “great risk”.

REUTERS