Faith leaders call on Zuckerberg to drop Instagram Kids plans

The Instagram app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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Feb 8 (Reuters) – Reverends, rabbis and other religious leaders urged Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to permanently halt the company’s plans for an Instagram version aimed at younger users on Tuesday, in a letter sent by advocacy group Fairplay and their Children’s Screen Time. Equity Network.

Since last September, Instagram has suspended plans to introduce a version of the photo-sharing app for children, amid growing opposition to the project.

“After much meditation and prayer, we affirm that social media platforms that target immature brains, practice unethical data mining and are driven by profit motives are not a tool for the greater. many children,” says the letter, which was signed by more than 70 religious leaders.

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Instagram and its parent company, Meta Platforms (FB.O) formerly Facebook, have come under scrutiny for the potential impact of their services on the mental health, body image and safety of young users, especially after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents about the company’s approach to young users.

In December, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri was asked about child online safety by a Senate panel. A coalition of state attorneys general has also launched an investigation into Meta for promoting Instagram to children despite the potential harm. Read more

Meta said the leaked documents were used to misrepresent the company’s work. He also said that the idea of ​​Instagram for Kids was to give a dedicated and safer place for young users to engage with the service.

Instagram, like other social media sites, has rules prohibiting children under 13 from joining the platform, but said it was aware it had users under that age.

The religious groups’ letter, which cited the Bible, the Koran, Pope Francis and Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh, called on Zuckerberg, like someone who has said in the past that religion is “very important”, to recognize the spiritual as well as age-old concerns regarding the project.

Instagram declined to comment on the letter.

Reuters reported last year on Meta’s concerted outreach to the faith community in its efforts to drive engagement on its platforms. The company, which has a team dedicated to religious partnerships, launched a new feature to request and send prayers on the site, sent mini-kits of equipment for streaming worship during the COVID-19 pandemic and held its first virtual religious summit last year. Read more

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Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Bernard Orr

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