In brief: Facebook has decided to put the development of its controversial Instagram Kids app on hold after widespread criticism. However, Congress says that pausing the project is not enough and that Facebook needs to scrap the app. Facebook has not responded to the demand but is scheduled to appear before Congress this week to testify on the matter.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published a report condemning Facebook's development of an Instagram app for kids. The Journal used Facebook's own research to show that Instagram had a harmful effect on teen girls, especially regarding body image. Facebook responded over the weekend, saying the report was "not accurate."
On Monday, after widespread blowback, Facebook announced it would pause the development of the Instagram Kids app. Instagram head Adam Mosseri tweeted that the company was following the "status quo" set by YouTube and TikTok in creating an under-13 (u13) app for Instagram, but that the company is pausing "to get this right."
I have to believe parents would prefer the option for their children to use an age-appropriate version of Instagram - that gives them oversight - than the alternative. But I'm not here to downplay their concerns, we have to get this right.--- Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) September 27, 2021
However, Congress threw its gauntlet into the ring by Monday afternoon, saying that putting the development on hold is not enough. In a joint statement of Democratic lawmakers led by Senator Ed Markey, Congress said it wants Facebook to "abandon this project."
"We are pleased that Facebook has heeded our calls to stop plowing ahead with its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children," read the statement. "A 'pause' is insufficient, however. Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project. Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know that Congress must step in."
Facebook is heeding our calls to stop plowing ahead with plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids. But a "pause" is insufficient. Facebook must completely abandon this project. https://t.co/CA6ikJHxOH--- Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) September 27, 2021
The lawmakers promised to re-introduce the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act to provide children legislative protections against internet applications that may harm their wellbeing. Additionally, fellow Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn ordered a hearing for this Thursday to discuss the matter with Facebook and Instagram executives.
"Facebook's decision to pause 'Instagram Kids' is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safe environment, but there is still much work to be done," said Sen. Blackburn. "Big Tech's pattern of choosing profit over the wellbeing of young users is extremely concerning & we must hold them accountable."