Facebook has been battling a series of damaging revelations made by the Wall Street Journal and picked up on by other major publications around the world for the past few weeks. Most of these revelations are backed by a series of leaked internal documents in possession of the Journal.
When I wrote about the issue, I predicted one of the immediate effects of these revelations would be that Facebook would struggle to launch new products as there would be pushback from various stakeholders including politicians, pressure groups and privacy advocates. We had already seen Facebook fail to launch their own cryptocurrency, Libra now called Diem.
Now Facebook has announced that it will be shelving its plans to launch Instagram for Kids. Instagram for kids was supposed to be something similar to YouTube for Kids, a pared-down and tweaked version of Instagram that would provide the ideal sheltered Instagram experience for those under the age of 13. Currently, those under the age of 13 cannot sign up for a normal Instagram account.
We wanted to provide an update on our work to build an Instagram experience for people under the age of 13, often referred to as “Instagram Kids.” We started this project to address an important problem seen across our industry: kids are getting phones younger and younger, misrepresenting their age, and downloading apps that are meant for those 13 or older.
We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience — than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID.
While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project. This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.FAcebook’s Blog post on the issue
The real reason Facebook is “pausing” this project is that recent leaks show that they don’t care about users and put profit before teen safety on Instagram. Despite multiple research showing, Instagram is toxic to teens they did nothing or did not do enough to make it a safer place for kids.
Instead of being apologetic after being caught, Facebook has hit back against the Wall Street Journal’s articles calling them mischaracterization. In fact, this blog post also goes on to whine about what The Journal has had to say about Facebook. They do not address the legitimate concerns about privacy and safety raised in these articles.
The company has also been summoned before the U.S Senate where its executives will be grilled on these and other issues. They will struggle to find a friendly ear in the corridors of power. Conservatives within the Republican Party already hate them and blame them for being a leftist company. Democrats blame them for Trump. Now they have more ammunition over the privacy issue.
All politicians agree that Facebook has become too powerful and they might become bipartisan on this issue and dock Facebook’s tail. The company needs to tread carefully or find itself in the sort of trouble that might threaten its current model. Pausing Instagram for Kids appears to be part of that treading lightly strategy.