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Activists join call for Facebook to drop 'tone-deaf' Instagram for kids plan

Activists join call for Facebook to drop 'tone-deaf' Instagram for kids plan
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More than 150,000 activists and parents have signed a series of petitions urging Facebook to drop its plans to create an Instagram for kids platform, the organizations behind the petitions said Tuesday. 

The signatories join a growing chorus of advocates and bipartisan lawmakers who have criticized Facebook’s plans, which would create an Instagram platform for children under 13. 

The three petitions, launched by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), SumOfUs and the Juggernaut Project, slam the plan over concerns about skewing children’s self image, harvesting their data and feeding the addictive nature of social media apps. 

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Josh Golin, executive director of CCFC, accused Facebook’s plan for the new platform as using children as “pawns in its war with TikTok for market share.” 

“Teens and even adults on Instagram struggle with the never-ending focus on appearance, the relentless fear of missing out, promotion of influencer culture, and the pressure to collect likes. Instagram for young children is among the greediest, most tone-deaf and wrong-headed ideas ever to emerge from Silicon Valley,” Golin said in a statement. 

Kristin Bride, the mother of a 16-year-old who died by suicide in June, is among those who signed the petitions. 

Her son, Carson Bride, received 62 anonymous messages “meant to humiliate him” between Jan. 23 to June 22 on the anonymous messaging platform “Yolo” before his death, according to a complaint Kristin Bride filed against Yolo and Snapchat. The messages often involved “sexually explicit and disturbing content,” the complaint alleges. 

Yolo was available for integrated use on Snapchat, but a Snapchat spokesperson confirmed earlier this month that it was suspended “in light of the serious allegations raised by the lawsuit.” 

Bride said Facebook’s plans to develop an Instagram for kids is “just another example of social media companies putting profit over people."

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“For the last decade, we have watched the negative impact of social media on teens. I question the ethics of a company that would addict children at an earlier age while risking their social development and mental health. Once these products become the social norm for how kids communicate, it becomes extremely difficult for parents to rein it in,” Bride said in a statement. 

Facebook has defended its plans over the repeated criticism from advocates and lawmakers. 

After Democrats in Congress called for Facebook to drop the plan last week, a company spokesperson said the platform will help give parents “visibility and control” over what their kids are doing. 

"As every parent knows, kids are already online. We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing,” the spokesperson said in a statement. 

The spokesperson also said that the platform will be developed in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates, as well as work with legislators and regulators. 

It's the same statement Facebook issued earlier this month after a bipartisan group of attorneys generals also called for Facebook to drop the plan. 

Republicans in Congress have not been as forthright in calling for Facebook to abandon the plans completely, but Republicans in the House and Senate have questioned the plans and the impact of social media platforms on teens and kids during recent hearings.