Facebook is facing public scrutiny yet again as public health advocate groups and individuals signed a petition urging Facebook to halt its plans to cater to a younger audience.
In a letter from the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood (CCFC), a total of 99 groups and individuals called out the "image-obsessed" platform, claiming that it's dangerous for the children's overall well-being.
Plans for Instagram created to be tailor-made for under-13s have been reported to be underway in the past few weeks. Facebook, owner of the platform, defended that the accounts would be "managed by parents."
How will the new 'child-friendly' feature work?
In an interview with BBC, Facebook said they are working on efficient verification methods to keep under 13 users from using the platform on their own accord.
Facebook said, "We're working on new age verification methods to keep under-13s off Instagram, and have just started exploring an Instagram experience for kids that is age-appropriate and managed by parents.
"We agree that any experience we develop must prioritise their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. We also won't show ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13."
However, the letter addressed to Facebook said that Instagram exploits the youths' fear of missing out. It also highlighted how the platform's focus on appearance and self-presentation would negatively impact the youngster's wellbeing and privacy.
"While collecting valuable family data and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users may be good for Facebook's bottom line, it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform's manipulative and exploitative features," CCFC noted.
Senior strategist at the US digital rights group Center for Digital Democracy Kathryn Montgomery said that while Facebook claims that their efforts are purely made to ensure the safety of children in their platform, she claimed that this may not be the case considering how lucrative the business is.
Montgomery said that the company's "real goal" is apparently for the company to expand its "highly profitable Instagram franchise" to the younger generation, but doing so could pose some serious risks to a child's wellbeing, health, and even their privacy, given that the internet, especially social media platforms, are filled with strangers who may want to take advantage of their innocence.
The letter cites research from the The Royal Society for Public Health which rated Instagram as the worst social media platform for youth mental health.
The report says that Instagram is linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, cyber-bullying and sexual grooming.
Instagram under fire
In a recent development, another BBC news reported that Instagram has apologized for mistakenly promoting harmful diet content, which promotes eating disorders.
Instagram's algorithm automatically recommended terms including "appetite suppressants" and "fasting" to some of its users. Campaigners against eating disorders said that vulnerable individuals can be triggered and relapse due to this promotion.
Instagram assured that the harmful content is now removed from their platform.
This article is owned by Tech Times
Written by Gabbie Natividad