Facebook pauses work on Instagram Kids

The social media giant has halted work on child-focused app days before testifying before Congress

Facebook has halted its work on a version of its Instagram social network for children, citing a need for more collaboration with parents and policymakers. 

The company had been working on Instagram Kids, a version of its photograph and social networking service for children ages 10 to 12. In an announcement, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said that the company was stopping its work on the app temporarily. 

"This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today," he said. 

Mosseri referenced recent reporting in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), revealing leaked internal research documents from Facebook acknowledging Instagram had a negative effect on teen girls' mental health. 

Over the weekend, Facebook's head of research Pratiti Raychoudhury published a rebuttal to the reporting, arguing it was inaccurate and some of it was based on a small sampling of teens. 

Mosseri added the pause in work didn't mean that Instagram Kids was a bad idea. He pointed out that TikTok and YouTube have developed versions of their apps for children under 13. TikTok and YouTube have been sued for violating childrens' privacy rights. Regulators have also investigated Instagram's child data management in the past. 

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In the UK, politicians have called for regulators to impose a duty of care on social media companies that force them to mitigate their effects on children's mental health. 

The pausing of work on the Instagram Kids project follows the launch of an investigation into Facebook's effect on teens. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, announced the move following the WSJ's report. 

"The Wall Street Journal’s reporting reveals Facebook’s leadership to be focused on a growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens," said the senators in a statement. "When given the opportunity to come clean to us about their knowledge of Instagram’s impact on young users, Facebook provided evasive answers that were misleading and covered up clear evidence of significant harm." 

Facebook's global head of safety Antigone Davis will testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Thursday. 

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