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Missouri AG among those probing Instagram’s impact on children


Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is among a coalition of state attorneys general investigating Instagram and its impact on young people, his office said Thursday. 

The bipartisan cohort of attorneys general are probing whether Instagram, which is under the Meta Platforms, Inc., violated state consumer protection laws by promoting Instagram to children and young people while knowing it is associated with physical and mental health concerns, Schmitt’s office said in a news release. 

“Protecting Missouri’s children is of the utmost importance as the state’s attorney general,” Schmitt said. “Joining with a broad group of attorneys general, we are launching an investigation in Meta and Instagram’s practices, especially as it relates to increasing the frequency that younger users engage with content on their platform.” 

“Big tech giants are not above the law, and I look forward to working with attorneys general across the country to protect our children,” Schmitt said. 

Other attorneys general involved in the probe are from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont. 

In September, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook (now known as Meta Platforms) had been studying how Instagram impacted young people. A March 2020 presentation from researchers said 32 percent of teenage girls “said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the newspaper reported. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, multiple internal studies have found that Instagram can be harmful to teenage girls in particular. 

The company pushed back against that notion after the report, saying it had research that showed “many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced.” 

The company said in 11 out of 12 issues, which included anxiety, eating disorders, and loneliness, most teenagers said Instagram made them better. The topic of body image was the only one when younger girls said Instagram made them feel worse. 

Instagram has since tabled plans to create a version of its social media platform for children. 

“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,” Massachusets Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat leading the investigation, said in a statement. “Meta can no longer ignore the threat that social media can pose to children for the benefit of their bottom line.”