Kansas AG worries about well-being of children as Facebook pauses new project with Senate hearings underway

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 3:27 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is worried about the well-being of children as Facebook has paused its new project to build a platform for children under 13 while Senate hearings are underway.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he told Senate leaders on Tuesday that U.S. Senate hearings are a vital chance to bring Facebook’s businesses practices to light, which target children and young people and disregard health to boost corporate revenues.

AG Schmidt said he joined a bipartisan coalition with 51 other state and territorial attorneys general to write a letter to a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to support the panel’s decision to hold hearings into the social media giant’s and other social media’s predatory behavior.

Schmidt said attorneys general have kept an eye on and been concerned about the negative effects of social media on youth, particularly given their dominant position in the marketplace. He said those concerns have grown with the recent research from Facebook’s own internal studies, which shows it causes or contributes to increased mental distress, bullying, suicide and other self-harm habits for a significant number of young people.

“Facebook and other social media platforms understand that their business models necessitate increasing the amount of time that kids engage with their platforms to maximize monetization,” Schmidt and the other attorneys general wrote. “This prompts social media companies to design their algorithms to psychologically manipulate young users into a state of addiction to their cell phone screens.”

Schmidt said Tuesday’s letter recognizes the hearings will bring to light crucial information about the business practices that these companies use to gain the attention of more young people on their platforms.

Schmidt said the current and future well-being of children and young people is at stake.

In May 2021, the Attorney General said he joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general who wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to urge the company to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. In the second week of October, ahead of Congressional hearings, he said Facebook announced its intent to pause the project.

The attorneys general stated the project should be abandoned altogether.

“Parents and children seeking a sense of balance and well-being are forced to combat these sophisticated methods seemingly alone. This is simply not a fair fight,” the attorneys general wrote on Tuesday. “When our young people’s health becomes mere collateral damage of greater profits for social media companies, it is time for the government to intervene.”

Schmidt said he is also one of 46 state attorneys general, along with the attorneys general of Guam and the District of Columbia, who have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook over its business practices. That lawsuit, which was filed in December 2020, he said remains pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

To read the full letter sent by the attorneys general on Tuesday, Oct. 12, click HERE.

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