Briefline

Colorado joins multistate investigation into Facebook’s alleged ‘willful practices’ that harm children

By: - November 23, 2021 4:45 am

(Mayur Kakade/Getty Images)

Colorado has joined a multistate investigation into alleged “willful practices” by Facebook that harms children, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced on last week

This comes after the Wall Street Journal published its “The Facebook Files,” an investigative series that suggests the company downplays what they know about Facebook’s alleged problems. 

Facebook knows that Instagram is “toxic for many teen girls,” and researchers inside Instagram found that Instagram makes body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teen girls, according to the Journal. 

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The Journal also reported that one of the presentation slides said that “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.” 

Facebook released the internal research that the Journal focused on, Facebook’s policy communications manager Andy Stone announced on Twitter.

In an article entitled “What Our Research Really Says About Teen Well-Being and Instagram,” Facebook’s vice president of research, Pratiti Raychoudhury, wrote that it is “simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls.”

Raychoudhury wrote that in “11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal — including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues — more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said that Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse,” and that body image was the “only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas.”

“Our department is intensely focused on how we best protect kids, addressing rising teenage suicide and mental health concerns,” Weiser said in Thursday’s press release. “A key part of that work is overseeing the conduct of social media platforms and ensuring that they are not harming our kids in violation of the law.”

“Facebook, now Meta, has failed to protect young people on its platforms and instead 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,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a Thursday press release announcing that she is co-leading the investigation. 

Attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Jersey and Vermont also joined the investigation.

“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a Thursday press release.

Phil Weiser
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser speaks during a media briefing on Aug. 17, 2020. (Moe Clark/Colorado Newsline)

This is not Weiser’s first time pushing back against Facebook. 

In May, Weiser sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, asking for more information about Facebook’s plans to launch a “kids version” of Instagram. In the letter, Weiser — along with the attorneys general from Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Arizona — asks what type of information Facebook plans to collect from child users and how Facebook will ensure children do not use the Instagram for children platform without parental consent. They also ask how Facebook will verify that the consent was provided by a parent, rather than by a child or unauthorized adult. 

“Young children are highly vulnerable and may not fully understand the privacy and safety implications of using the internet, and how companies collect their personal information and online behavior patterns,” Weiser said in a May 10 press release announcing his letter to Zuckerberg. “Facebook has an obligation to inform parents and the public on how it will protect young children who use their platforms, including an Instagram for kids.”

In December, Weiser and a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook

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