TALLAHASSEE — No fewer than 40 state attorneys general signed onto a letter Monday urging Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon his company’s reported plans to create an Instagram for young children.
“Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account,” the bipartisan letter reads. “Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.”
Florida’s attorney general, Ashley Moody, was not among them, however. And her office won’t say why.
When asked why she didn’t sign the letter, a spokeswoman emailed back a statement noting the attorney general’s work to protect children.
“The Attorney General, as Chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking and a mother, believes that protecting children from online predators and human traffickers is extremely important,” the statement read. “That is why, our statewide prosecutors work every day to lock up human traffickers, and the Attorney General regularly provides online security resources directly to parents and continues to encourage parents to closely monitor their children’s use of social media.”
A spokeswoman for the the National Association of Attorneys General, which organized the letter, confirmed it was sent to Moody’s office. The national group referred questions about why Moody didn’t sign the letter to her office.
On Tuesday, Florida Senate Democrats wrote a letter of their own to Moody urging her to sign onto the letter.
“Given your past actions against human trafficking, we were extremely disappointed to see that your name was not among those signing on to the letter from the National Attorneys General Association, which called on Facebook to abandon the Instagram for Kids platform,” the Democrats’ letter read.
Moody has been highly skeptical of large technology companies in the past. In the past year, she’s joined Florida onto two separate lawsuits accusing Google of acting as an online monopoly. And in December, she joined Florida onto a lawsuit brought by 48 state attorneys general alleging Facebook had engaged in “anti-competitive business practices.”
Josh Golin, the executive director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which is pushing Facebook to abandon its Instagram for kids platform, commended the attorneys general who signed the letter Moody passed on.
Like the attorneys general, Golin argued that kids don’t have the maturity to handle the onslaught of advertising and social pressure that comes with a social media presence. Kids don’t need a separate platform to be safe online, Golin said, noting that Facebook has had trouble keeping kids safe on its existing platforms.
“We don’t think this has anything to do with child safety,” Golin said. “We think it has to do with the fact that Instagram is getting its butt kicked by TikTok when it comes to younger users.”
In a statement, a Facebook company spokesperson said it would not show any advertisements on a potential platform created for young kids.
“Kids are already online. We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing. We are developing these experiences in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates. We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general,” the Facebook spokesperson said.