BEIJING, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- A cross-party coalition of U.S. attorneys general announced yesterday that it had launched an investigation into U.S. social networking giant Facebook Inc. to promote its social tool Instagram to young users in the event of potential physical or mental harm.
At a time when Meta is facing scrutiny and questioning over its handling of children or youth on social platforms, the coalition said in an emailed statement that it would investigate whether the company violated U.S. consumer protection laws and put teen users at risk.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a press release that Meta did not protect teen and child users on their social platforms, chose to ignore them and, in some cases, used platform manipulations that posed a "real threat" to young people's physical and mental health, effectively "exploiting children for profit."
A Meta spokesman responded in a statement that the allegations made against the company by a coalition of state attorneys general were false and reflected a "deep misunderstanding" of the facts of the company's operations.
The spokesman said protecting young people on the Internet posed a challenge across the industry and was ahead of the industry in many ways, including fighting cyberbullying, helping young people with suicidal self-harm, or eating disorders.
The company added that internal teams are continuing to develop parental controls for teen users and are exploring ways to provide social networking services that are fully linked to real age to children.
Instagram is one of Meta's top four mobile social tools. Like other social media, the tool has explicit rules prohibiting children under the age of 13 from registering on the platform, although the company acknowledges that there are actually banned children's users on the platform.
Previously, Instagram had been preparing to develop a children's version, but there was strong opposition. In September, the company announced that it had suspended plans to develop a children's version.
The suspension was announced by Instagram after an authoritative US financial media outlet reported on a number of internal company documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower and former employee Frances Hogan. The evidence suggests that Meta is well aware that Instagram, a social tool, has had a mental health impact on the teenage user base.
Meta countered that internal documents disclosed by Hogan were used to paint a "false picture" of the company's actual operations and work.
Over the past few months, attorneys general in more than 40 U.S. states have written to Meta asking the company to abandon the development of social media products aimed at children's users. In addition, some U.S. lawmakers have questioned Meta.