Facebook Lies, Twitch Leaks, and TikTok Takeover: Here Are Ofcom’s New Rules
On March 16, 2021, Instagram announced a major security update aimed at making the platform safer for a younger audience. The measure introduced restrictions on direct messages (DMs) between teens and adults they don’t follow, constant prompts to exercise caution when interacting online, and encouragement to be private. Barely two days later, BuzzFeed News obtained an internal Facebook post confirming the company’s plan to launch a separate version of Instagram for children under 13. What could go wrong, right?
“I am delighted to report that in the future we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and added it to our H1 priority list,” Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of products, wrote on the employee board. The post highlighted two ‘pillars of youth’ the platform would focus on: ‘accelerating integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest experience possible for teens’ as well as’ building a version of Instagram which allows people under 13 to safely use the platform for the first time.
“Children are increasingly asking their parents if they can join apps that help them follow their friends ”, Joe osborne, a Facebook spokesperson, said in a declaration. Osborne further pointed out the lack of child-friendly social networking apps in today’s market, hence the work on creating additional products such as Children’s Messenger to close the gap.
“We plan to bring a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids follow their friends, discover new hobbies and interests and more,” he added. Considering the application popularity among teens, Instagram is ultimately looking to tap into an audience of children under 13 as a viable growth segment. Moving this potential segment to a separate platform not only helps Instagram regulate social media, but also expand its user base and “sustain” the application’s demand into the next generation’s lifestyle.
However, child safety experts and health advocates quickly jumped on the scene, digging up demographics with predators on the social media platform, urging Facebook to drop all plans. implementation of “Kidstagram”.
A delicate situation rooted in the drawbacks
In a letter coordinated by the non-profit association Youth Advocacy Campaign for an ad-free childhood, more than 20 groups and dozens of individual researchers have called “Instagram for Kids” a tool that “will put young users at great risk.” Citing a “growing body of research” demonstrating the negative effects of social networks on young people, the letter implored Mark Zuckerberg to abandon the project.
“Instagram, in particular, harnesses the fear of young people to miss out and the desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” it reads. the letter, adding how the platform “relentlessly focuses on appearance, self-presentation and branding present challenges for the privacy and well-being of adolescents.
The letter further highlighted how Instagram’s effects–while it was found to be negative for adolescents– will be even more serious for those under 13.Young children are very persuasive by algorithmic prediction of what they might click next, and we are very concerned about how automated decision making would determine what children see and experience on a children’s Instagram platform ” , indicates the letter.
While the groups agree that “something needs to be done to protect the millions of children who have lied about their age to create Instagram accounts,” they stressed that “launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 years is not the right remedy “. The letter thus urged the tech giant to abandon its plans which are still “in the early stages of planning.”
“This would send a strong message that Facebook understands the broad concerns about the effects of its business model on young people and is open to solutions that truly benefit children and teens.–not just Facebook’s market share, ”the letter concludes.
While Facebook has yet to comment on the letter, in a hearing related to Facebook’s antitrust concerns earlier this year, Zuckerberg ignored all criticism of the platform, saying “there is clearly a big number of people under 13 who would like to use a service like Instagram “to” stay connected with friends “.
A challenge based on previous wills
Let’s be honest here, the backlash that ‘Instagram for Kids’ is receiving isn’t surprising, especially given the Messenger Kids and YouTube Kids case studies.
Tech giant’s previous attempt to dip its toes into coveted market segment–with Messenger Kids in 2017–did not take long to encounter problems. Two years after its launch, Facebook discovered a major design flaw this allowed children to enter group chats with strangers without their parents’ permission. Over the next few weeks, Facebook quietly shut down these group chats and alerted users, without making a public statement revealing the problem.
YouTube is another platform that has run into issues after launching its kid-friendly alternative. Launched in 2015, YouTube Kids had to crack down on inappropriate videos being attach to its users. Earlier this month, the House Sub-Committee on Economic and Consumer Policy hammered the service for its low quality content, a high degree of product placement, and insufficient content moderation. As recently as last week, Viacom, Disney and 10 ad tech companies showed up. a colony in a trial who accused these companies of launching tracking software on applications intended for children without the consent of their parents.
While Adam MossériInstagram chief swears by its upcoming transparency and oversight features, declaring the complete lack of ads on the organized platform, a plethora of researchers accuse the tech giant for its attempt to “normalize the idea that social connections exist to be monetized “. “
“From a privacy standpoint, you just legitimize children’s interactions by being monetized the same way as all adults using these platforms,” said Priya Kumar, doctoral student at the University of Maryland. In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Kumar explained that many kids using YouTube Kids often end up migrating to the main platform, either by choice or by accident.–a curse for parents but a boon for businesses. “Just because you have a platform for the kids doesn’t mean the kids are going to stay there,” she added.
While Messenger Kids and YouTube Kids have raised concerns, there are some independent entertainment companies that have successfully tapped into the coveted market segment that cannot be left out. Moonbug, for example, is a successful example of a media network delivering developmentally relevant content accessible to children around the world. Using the collected data to “understand the needs, wants and current trends” of young audiences, the video-on-demand platform delivers fun and safe content through its kid-friendly app.
While Instagram is constantly introducing new security and anti-bullying tools, they may not completely solve the problem. After all, if kids under 13 can lie about their age on Instagram, what is stopping adults from lying about their age on these “under 13” platforms? May be ‘Kidsstagram‘should remain a hashtag for now.