Nov 18, 2021 - Technology

State AGs launch Instagram investigation

Illustration of a place setting with the Instagram app icon taking the place of a plate.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A coalition of state attorneys general is launching an investigation into how Instagram, owned by Meta, draws in young users and affects their well-being, some of the states involved announced Thursday.

Why it matters: Meta has made it clear it wants to entice young users in order to compete with companies that have been more popular with kids and teenagers, like TikTok and Snapchat.

What's happening: The AGs are investigating the photo and video sharing app in response to revelations from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on internal research showing Meta knew Instagram could have bad effects on users.

  • At least eight states, including New York, Nebraska and Massachusetts, are involved. The AG investigation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Yes, but: Tech companies like Meta have armies of lawyers and endless funds to fight off state action, if the AG coalition's investigation turns into a lawsuit.

  • Earlier this year, a federal district judge dismissed a state AG antitrust lawsuit against Meta.

Flashback: In September, Meta abandoned plans for an Instagram app for kids after lawmaker outcry.

What they're saying: "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 Letitia James.

  • “Our coalition will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to protect children and young adults from the harms Instagram and other social media platforms risk to so many.”
  • Nebraska AG Doug Peterson said: "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."
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