Facebook hits pause on Instagram Kids amid growing criticism
Instagram defends development of photo-sharing app for children but delays rollout to build parental supervision tools
Instagram has hit pause on a new app it is creating for children, the photo-sharing service owned by Facebook Inc said on Monday, in a move that comes amid growing opposition for the project.
Instagram Kids had been touted as requiring parental permission to join, and was supposed to provide ad-free, age-appropriate content, but US legislators and advocacy groups have urged the social media giant to drop its launch plans, citing safety concerns.
“We won’t stop pressuring Facebook until they permanently pull the plug,” said Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, an advocacy group focused on children.
Instagram said in a blog post that building Instagram Kids was the right thing to do, but that it was pausing the work and would continue building on its parental supervision tools.
“The reality is that children are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today,” it said, noting that there were app versions of Alphabe’s YouTube and ByteDance’s TikTok for those under 13.
Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice-president of global affairs, said on Monday that the company is exploring features that would “nudge” a teen away from content on Instagram that its tech system perceives could be negative, or encourage them to take a break from the app. He spoke in an interview at the Atlantic Festival.
Four Democratic legislators including US. Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal said on Monday they were pleased by Facebook’s decision but said the pause “is insufficient”.
“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” they said.
In 2017, Facebook had launched the stand-alone Messenger Kids app, an instant messaging platform for children under the age of 13, which is controlled by a parent’s Facebook account.
Earlier in September, the Wall Street Journal published a report that focused on data suggesting that Instagram had a harmful effect on teenagers, particularly teen girls, and that Facebook had made minimal efforts to address the issue.
Facebook said on Sunday that the report is “not accurate”.
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