Attorney General Bonta Announces Nationwide Investigation into Instagram’s Impact on Young People

Thursday, November 18, 2021
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Attorneys General concerned for safety and well-being of children; examining potential violations of consumer protection laws

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced a nationwide investigation into Meta Platform, Inc., formerly known as Facebook, for providing and promoting its social media platform — Instagram — to children and young adults despite knowing that such use is associated with physical and mental health harms. Attorneys general across the country are examining the company's conduct and whether Meta or others violated the law or put the public at risk.

“For too long, Meta has ignored the havoc that Instagram is wreaking on the mental health and well-being of our children and teens,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Enough is enough. We’ve undertaken this nationwide investigation to get answers about Meta’s efforts to promote the use of this social media platform to young Californians – and to determine if, in doing so, Meta violated the law.” 

The investigation targets, among other things, the techniques utilized by Meta to increase the frequency and duration of engagement by young users and the resulting harms caused by such extended engagement. 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.

Attorney General Bonta is committed to holding social media companies like Meta accountable, particularly when their actions may cause harm to California’s youngest residents. Last month, Attorney General Bonta co-led a bipartisan coalition in expressing support for hearings in the U.S. Senate on “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms.” In May, Attorney General Bonta joined 43 attorneys general in urging Meta to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. Following heavy criticism and shocking new reports from Wall Street Journal and other publications, Meta announced in September that it would pause development of the new platform.

Leading the investigation, involving a broad group of states across the country, is a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Vermont.

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