A group of Democratic lawmakers wrote Mark Zuckerberg this week to pressure the CEO over his plans to create a version of Instagram for children. At a hearing last month, Zuckerberg confirmed information from BuzzFeed that the company was exploring an age-limited version of its app designed for younger users.
Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representatives Lori Trahan (D-MA) and Kathy Castor (D-FL) signed the letter, expressing “serious concerns” about the capacity. of the company to protect the privacy and well-being of young users.
“Facebook has an obligation to ensure that any new platform or project targeting children prioritizes the well-being of these users, and we doubt Facebook is prepared to fulfill that obligation,” the lawmakers wrote.
They cited previous failures with products like Messenger Kids, which had a loophole that allowed children to chat with people beyond their privacy settings.
“While software bugs are common, this episode illustrated threats to children’s online privacy and highlighted Facebook’s inability to protect the children the company has actively invited to this platform.” , wrote the lawmakers.
“In light of these and other privacy and security issues on Facebook platforms, we are not confident that Facebook will be able to adequately protect children’s privacy on any version of Instagram. for young users. ”
The letter set an April 26 deadline for the company to provide answers to a comprehensive and usefully specific set of questions about a future product aimed at children.
In the letter, lawmakers posed a number of questions about how Facebook will treat the private data of young users and whether that data would be deleted when an account is closed. They also asked the company to pledge not to target children with ads and not to use push alerts and behavior-shaping features designed to make apps more addictive.
During last month’s big tech hearing in the House, committee members from both political parties asked Zuckerberg about the negative effects of Facebook and Instagram on the mental health of young users. Representative Castor also insisted with the CEO on underage users who bypass Instagram’s existing age guidelines to use a platform full of posts, videos and ads designed for adults.
“Of course every parent knows there are kids under 13 on Instagram, and the problem is, you know that,” Zuckerberg said.