Bipartisan group of attorneys general investigate whether Meta pushed Instagram onto teens

ByEm Nguyen ABCNews logo
Friday, November 19, 2021
11 AGs investigate Instagram promotions, effect on teens
A bipartisan group of attorneys general launched a probe into whether Meta, formerly Facebook, pushed social media app Instagram onto teen girls.

WASHINGTON -- There has been more potential fallout Friday for Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook.

SEE ALSO | Facebook changes company name to Meta

Attorneys general across a number of states have started probing whether the social media giant pushed their app Instagram onto teens. The probe comes after a whistleblower and former employee released internal research and testified on the subject on Capitol Hill.

The bipartisan group of attorneys general from 11 states and the District of Columbia is investigating accusations that Meta promoted Instagram while knowing about the negative mental health impact the app can have on young people.

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Massachusetts' attorney general said the states are looking into whether the company's actions violated state consumer protection laws, saying Meta "chose to ignore or, in some cases, double down on known manipulations that pose a real threat to physical and mental health - exploiting children in the interest of profit."

Pressure on meta has been escalating since whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, leaked internal research that suggested teens suffered body-image issues when using the app, with 32% of teen girls saying when they feel bad about their bodies, Instagram makes them feel even worse.

SEE ALSO | Facebook hearing: Whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies before Congress

"There were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook," Haugen said.

The new investigation by officials at the state level is also looking into the techniques Meta uses to attract young people to the app and get them to spend more time using it.

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"While Facebook publicly denies that Instagram is harmful for teens, privately, Facebook researches have been ringing the alarm for years," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

Instagram pushed back, saying it has introduced parental-supervision tools and other ways to protect teens, adding that "these accusations are false and demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts."