Nationwide Coalition Probing Effects of Instagram Usage by Young Users, Strategies and Features Employed by the Company to Induce Kids to Spend Time on Platform
For Immediate Release: November 18, 2021
Office of The Attorney General
– Andrew J. Bruck, Acting Attorney General
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck announced today that New Jersey is co-leading a nationwide investigation into whether the social media platform Instagram is violating state consumer protection laws and putting children, teenagers and young adults at risk by inducing them to use the platform in ways that are potentially harmful to them.
Among other things, the investigation is centered on techniques employed by Instagram’s parent company Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly known as Facebook) to increase both the frequency and duration of engagement by young users, and on the potential harms that may result from such extended engagement.
As New Jersey and other states noted in a letter to Facebook earlier this year, in which the states urged Meta to scrap plans for an under-age-13 version of Instagram, emerging research suggests a nexus between increased time spent online by young persons – particularly on social media platforms – and such ill effects as depression, anxiety, isolation, body image issues, cyber-bullying, eating disorders, and sleeplessness, among others.
“Parents are anxious about the effects of social media on their children’s wellbeing, and understandably so,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “We must ensure that social media platforms are not violating our laws or exposing our youth to mental and physical harms. And if we learn that companies like Meta knew that their products were harmful and tried to get kids hooked on them anyway, or otherwise violated our laws, we will take strong and aggressive action. That’s why a nationwide coalition is investigating, and that’s why I am proud New Jersey is taking a leadership role.”
Today’s announcement follows recent reports revealing that Meta’s own internal research shows that using Instagram is associated with increased risks of physical and mental health harms on young people, including depression, eating disorders, and even suicide.
New Jersey has long been concerned about the negative impacts of social media platforms on New Jersey’s residents. In May, as highlighted above, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office was part of a bipartisan coalition of 44 Attorneys General that urged Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.
The Instagram investigation announced today involves a broad group of states across the country. In addition to Acting Attorney General Bruck, the bipartisan coalition of Attorneys General leading the investigation includes Attorneys General from Nebraska, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vermont.