'Enough is Enough': Several States Investigate Instagram Over Effects on Kids, Young Adults

A team of state attorney generals is investigating Instagram's effects on kids and young adults.

Eight different states have joined the investigation following incriminating reports that started with a Wall Street Journal story. Those reports said Meta Platforms, the new name for Instagram's parent company, formerly known as Facebook, knew the potential harm the photo-heavy app presented to teenagers. In particular, the reports focused on the mental health and body image concerns for teenage girls, The Associated Press reported.

Following the Wall Street Journal report, a variety of prominent media outlets took the rare step of coming together as a consortium in order to wade through documents leaked by whistleblower France Haugen. Haugen testified before Congress and a British parliamentary committee about her discoveries.

"For too long, Meta has ignored the havoc that Instagram is wreaking on the mental health and well-being of our children and teens," said California Attorney General Rob Bonta. "Enough is enough. We've undertaken this nationwide investigation to get answers about Meta's efforts to promote the use of this social media platform to young Californians – and to determine if, in doing so, Meta violated the law."

Harm from extended time on the platform is among the prime concerns of the investigation. The investigation is also looking into ways Instagram convinced young people to keep using the app.

Meta spokesperson Liza Crenshaw said the accusations are "false" and show "a deep misunderstanding of the facts" in a statement.

The company paused plans for a children's version of Instagram in September, The Guardian reported. There had been increasing criticisms about the project, including a request from a group of over 40 state attorney generals for the company to cease it.

For more reporting the Associated Press, see below.

Instagram, Investigation, Mental Health Issues
In this Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, the Instagram app logo is displayed on a mobile screen in Los Angeles. A group of state attorneys general are investigating the photo-sharing platform Instagram and its effects on children and young adults, saying its parent company Facebook — now called Meta Platforms — ignored internal research about the physical and mental health dangers it posed to young people. Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo, File

"While challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we've led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders," Crenshaw also said in the statement.

The state investigations follow a Monday announcement that Ohio's largest public employee pension fund had sued Meta, alleging that it broke federal securities law by purposely misleading the public about the negative effects of its social platforms and the algorithms that run them.

The lawsuit by the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System claims that Facebook buried inconvenient findings about how the company has managed those algorithms as well as the steps it said it was taking to protect the public.

Instagram, Investigation, Mental Health Issues, Meta Platforms
A group of state attorney generals launched an investigation on Instagram and its effects on kids and young adults. In this photo illustration, the logos of social media applications, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook is displayed on the screen of an iPhone on October 06, 2021 in Paris, France. Photo Illustration by Chesnot/Getty Images