Instagram is “pausing” plans for a version of the app aimed at kids under the age of 13 that had sparked a backlash from child safety advocates and lawmakers, the Facebook-owned app said Monday.
The news comes as Instagram faces increased scrutiny after a damning Wall Street Journal report showed its own research has found the photo-sharing app makes body image issues worse for many teen girls.
The decision also comes just days before Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety, is due to testify in front of Congress on Thursday, where she is expected to be grilled about the company’s internal Instagram report and other issues.
In a blog post announcing the suspension of Instagram kids, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the company still believes “building ‘Instagram Kids’ is the right thing to do.”
“Critics of ‘Instagram Kids’ will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea,” wrote Mosseri. “That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.”
Mosseri pointed to under-13 versions of YouTube and TikTok as evidence that children’s versions of apps are accepted in the tech world.
On Twitter, the executive seemed to admit that the Wall Street Journal’s reporting on Instagram’s own studies helped spur the company to action.
“The project leaked way before we knew what it would be,” said Mosseri. “People feared the worst, and we had few answers at that stage. Recent WSJ reporting caused even greater concern. It’s clear we need to take more time on this.”
Facebook has argued that the Journal’s reporting was presented without context and “simply not accurate” — even though the paper quoted directly from a leaked internal document.
Asked how long Facebook expects the “pause” to last, company spokesperson Stephanie Otway told The Post, “We don’t have a specific timeline.”
Mosseri said Instagram would use the time to “demonstrate the value and need for this product” to parents, experts and policymakers.
News that Instagram was working on a version of the app for children was first reported by BuzzFeed News in March of this year.
By May, attorneys general from 44 US states and territories including New York, California and Texas had called on Facebook to abandon the feature, citing concerns about physical and mental health, cyberbullying and other issues.
The company also faced condemnations from politicians including Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and a campaign against the feature from 35 child safety organizations led by the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
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