Meta has been under fire for the possible influence of its services on young people’s mental health, body image, and safety.
In a statement delivered by advocacy group Fairplay and its Children’s Screen Time Action Network on Tuesday, pastors, rabbis, and other religious leaders urged Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to permanently halt the company’s proposal for an Instagram version aimed at young users.
Instagram‘s intentions to launch a children’s version of the photo-sharing app have been on hold since September, as public opposition to the initiative mounted.
“We assert that social media platforms that target immature brains, undertake unethical data mining, and are motivated by economic objectives are not a tool for the greater welfare of children,” according to the letter, which was signed by more than 70 religious leaders.
Instagram and its parent company, Meta Platforms, formerly Facebook, have come under fire for the potential impact of their services on young people’s mental health, body image, and safety, including after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents about the company’s approach to younger users.
A Senate panel grilled Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri in December about children’s internet safety. A group of state attorneys general has launched an investigation into Meta for advertising Instagram to youngsters despite the risks.
The hacked materials, according to Meta, were used to present a false picture of the company’s operations. It also stated that the goal of Instagram for Kids was to provide a safe, dedicated space for younger users to interact with the platform.
Instagram, like other social media platforms, have regulations prohibiting children under the age of 13 from joining, although it has acknowledged that it has users under this age.
The faith groups’ letter, which included references to the Bible, Qur’an, Pope Francis, and Buddhist monk Thch Nht Hnh, urged Zuckerberg, who has previously stated that religion is “extremely important,” to consider spiritual as well as secular concerns about the initiative.
Instagram declined to comment on the letter.
Meta’s persistent outreach to the religious sector in its efforts to promote participation on its platforms was revealed by Reuters last year. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the company, which has a dedicated faith partnerships team, released a new feature on the site to seek and send prayers, handed out micro equipment kits for streaming worship, and had its first virtual faith summit last year.