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Herring backs Senate hearings on Facebook impact on children

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Recent research from Facebook’s own internal studies is showing that social media is inflicting harm – in the form of increased mental distress, bullying, suicide and other self-harm – on a significant number of children.

Congress is addressing the issue with hearings this week in the U.S. Senate that have the support of Attorney General Mark Herring.

A letter addressed to Congress signed onto by Herring and a group of state AGs recognizes the hearings will uncover critical information about the business practices that social media companies are using to gain the attention of more young people on their platforms

“Research continues to show just how dangerous social media and the internet can be for children, with risks ranging from cyberbullying, to mental health issues, to the threat of dangerous individuals who prey on young people,” Herring said. “I remain concerned that social media companies, like Facebook and Instagram, continue to work on products and platforms that potentially exploit young users just to make a profit. We must do all we can to protect young users from these and other threats on social media platforms, especially in the ever-changing landscape of the internet.”

Herring in May joined a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general in writing a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging the company to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. That request was ignored.

Last week, in advance of the congressional hearings, Facebook announced their intent to “pause” the project, but Herring and his colleagues believe the project should be abandoned altogether.

In the letter, the coalition writes that “(m)ore engagement by the user equals more data to leverage for advertising, which equals greater profit. This prompts social media companies to design their algorithms and other features to psychologically manipulate young users into a state of addiction to their cell phone screens.”