by Ailan Evans
A bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general launched a probe into Instagram on Thursday to examine whether the company violated state-level consumer protection laws.
The states are investigating whether Meta (formerly known as Facebook), which owns Instagram, promoted the image-sharing platform “to children and young adults” despite being aware of its negative effects, according to statements from the attorneys general. The probe cites internal Facebook communications and research leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen and published by The Wall Street Journal showing Meta was aware that use of Instagram could contribute to body image and mental health issues among teens.
“When social media platforms treat our children as mere commodities to manipulate for longer screen time engagement and data extraction, it becomes imperative for state attorneys general to engage our investigative authority under our consumer protection laws,” Republican Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said in a statement.
The probe is led by state attorneys general from Nebraska, California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont, and it targets the methods Instagram uses to increase the “frequency and duration of engagement by young users” on the platform, according to the statements.
Meta did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. A Meta spokesperson told The Hill that the investigation is premised on a misunderstanding of how Instagram works.
“While challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we’ve led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders,” the spokesperson said.
The investigation follows a lawsuit filed by Republican Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on behalf of Meta investors which alleges that the company committed securities fraud by misrepresenting its content moderation policies and effects on young users.
Meta is also under congressional scrutiny, with lawmakers proposing several bills aimed at holding the company liable for harms to its users.
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Ailan Evans is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.