Instagram is facing an investigation from a bipartisan group of state attorneys general over the photo-sharing app’s effect on young people, even as its parent company Meta Platforms attempts to shrug off months of scandals.
The attorney generals of New York, Florida, California and several other states said Thursday that they’re investigating “the techniques utilized by [Instagram] to increase the frequency and duration of engagement by young users and the resulting harms caused by such extended engagement.”
The news comes after internal documents at Meta, which last month changed its name from Facebook, were leaked to news outlets including the New York Post, revealing Instagram’s harmful effects on young people. The company’s own research showed that Instagram can curate anorexia-related images to teen girls with eating disorders and makes body image issues worse for many young users.
“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,” the attorney generals said.
The other states participating in the investigation include New Jersey, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Tennessee and Vermont.
“Doesn’t make a difference if you call it Instagram, Facebook, or Meta, the fact still remains the same: These social media platforms are extremely dangerous and have been proven to cause both physical and mental harm in young people,” said New York attorney general and candidate for governor Letitia James. “Time and again, Mark Zuckerberg and the companies he run have put profits over safety, but our investigation seeks to end that behavior.
Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s Republican attorney general, also blasted the company, which changed its name from Facebook to Meta during this year’s torrent of scandals.
“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,” said Peterson.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
News of the investigation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which was also the first outlet to report on the internal Instagram research.
Meta shares were trading down 0.7 percent at $388.43 on Thursday afternoon.