Facebook suspends plan to launch Instagram Kids following backlash

Move delayed after leak of research highlighting concerns over app’s effect on body image

Adam Mosseri, who runs the Facebook-owned Instagram, said building a standalone app for children under 13 that offers parents more control and supervision was still the ‘right thing to do’. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Adam Mosseri, who runs the Facebook-owned Instagram, said building a standalone app for children under 13 that offers parents more control and supervision was still the ‘right thing to do’. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

 

Facebook has suspended plans to launch Instagram Kids, a version of its photo-sharing app for children under the age of 13, as a backlash against the project gathered momentum in Washington.

Adam Mosseri, who runs the Facebook-owned app, denied that the decision to “pause” development work on Instagram Kids was an admission that the concept was a “bad idea”, and said building a standalone app that offers parents more control and supervision was still the “right thing to do”.

But Mr Mosseri said in a statement on Monday: “I hear the concerns with this project, and we’re announcing these steps today so we can get it right.”

The move comes after an investigation by the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook’s own internal research previously found that using Instagram could be detrimental to aspects of many teenagers’ wellbeing, such as body image. The report, based on documents leaked by an unnamed whistleblower who has since met several members of Congress to discuss the matter, suggested that the company had buried the findings.

Facebook has fiercely disputed the WSJ’s presentation of its research. However, it said delaying the launch of Instagram Kids would give it more time to incorporate feedback from politicians, parents and child-safety campaigners, as the call for stronger safeguarding attracts a growing coalition of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

In the wake of the report, a group of representatives in both houses of Congress wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, urging the company to share its research and abandon its plans for the Instagram Kids app.

The company has agreed to send Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, to appear this Thursday before a Senate commerce committee hearing about protecting children online.

In March, after the Instagram Kids plans were first announced, Mr Zuckerberg was grilled by US lawmakers at a hearing over accusations that Facebook was designed to attract young users and could expose them to unsafe content. Shortly after, 44 US attorneys-general wrote to Mr Zuckerberg and called on him to drop the plans, saying it would be “harmful for myriad reasons”. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021