Attorney General Maura Healey said Thursday that she is co-leading a nationwide investigation into Meta, the parent company of Instagram, for promoting the photo-sharing app to children and young adults while knowing it caused harm to their physical and mental health.
The investigation will examine the ways Meta, formerly known as Facebook, tried to increase both the frequency of use and the amount of time users spent on the Instagram app. Healey and a number of other attorneys general want to know whether these practices violated consumer protection laws or put the public at risk.
Healey said the goal is to “get to the bottom of this company’s engagement with young users, identify any unlawful practices, and end these abuses for good.”
“As Attorney General it is my job to protect young people from these online harms,” she said in a press release. “Meta can no longer ignore the threat that social media can pose to children for the benefit of their bottom line.”
Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw said the accusations are “false and demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts.” She said challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry.
“We continue to build new features to help people who might be dealing with negative social comparisons or body image issues, including our new ‘Take a Break’ feature and ways to nudge them towards other types of content if they’re stuck on one topic,” she wrote via e-mail.
Healey joined attorneys general from states including California — where Meta is headquartered — Florida, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont in launching the investigation. In May she co-led a separate effort to urge Facebook to scrap its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13.
Meta said it would delay the launch of “Instagram Kids” in September ahead of a congressional hearing, which was convened after the publication of a Wall Street Journal report that suggested the company knew how harmful Instagram was for teenage girls.