Source: Alana Mastrangelo

44 state attorneys general are urging Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg not to follow through with his company’s plan to develop a version of Instagram aimed at children under the age of 13. In a letter sent to Zuckerberg, the attorneys general note: “Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.”

“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the attorneys general said in their bipartisan letter to Zuckerberg on Monday.

“In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons,” they added. “The attorneys general urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch this new platform.”

Currently, children under the age of 13 are prohibited from using Instagram entirely. Instagram even features a support page for reporting profiles of children under 13 using the platform.

The AGs also mention their concerns about the potential for increased cyberbullying, and vulnerability to online predators.

“Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account,” they added. “Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.

I’m calling on @Facebook to abandon its plans to create a version of @Instagram for children under the age of 13.

This is a dangerous idea that can be detrimental to children and put them directly in harm’s way.

— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) May 10, 2021

“It’s shameful that Facebook is ignoring the very real threat that social media poses to the safety and well-being of young children in an attempt to profit off of a vulnerable segment of our population,” said Massachusetts AG Maura Healey in a statement, according to a report by WGBH.

Attorneys general from Massachusetts, Nebraska, Vermont, Tennessee, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have all signed the letter.

Attorneys general from District of Columbia, as well as the U.S. territories Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico have also signed the letter.

Facebook, however, said in a statement on Monday that it plans to move forward with its plan to develop its underage Instagram, adding that it will try to work with lawmakers.

“We are developing these experiences in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates,” Facebook said, according to a report by Journal-News.

“We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general,” the company added.

Facebook also insists its new version of Instagram will give parents more control over what their children — who are already online — are exposed to.

Zuckerberg is also reportedly under pressure from an international coalition of 35 children’s and consumer groups to drop its plans for the underage version of Instagram.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.