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.
"Time and again, Mark Zuckerberg and the companies he runs have put profits over safety, but our investigation seeks to end that behavior," New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James said Thursday in a statement.
"Our coalition will not hesitate to take whatever action is necessary to protect children and young adults from the harms Instagram and other social media platforms risk to so many," the statement read.
The investigation, which involves at least eight states, comes as Facebook faces increasing scrutiny over its approach to children and young adults. Documents leaked by a former employee turned whistleblower recently revealed the company's own internal research showed the platform negatively affected the mental health of teens, particularly regarding body image issues.
As per a report by The Guardian, the investigation will cover whether the company violated consumer protection laws and put young people at risk and will be led by a coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee and Vermont.
"For too long, Meta has ignored the havoc that Instagram is wreaking on the mental health and wellbeing of our children and teens," said California's attorney general, Rob Bonta, in an emailed statement.
"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."
Facebook, now known as Meta, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In September, the company said it was pausing its plans for a version of Instagram designed for kids, amid growing opposition to the project.
Facebook has continued to face blowback over the internal documents leaked by its former employee Frances Haugen.
In September, the company's global head of safety faced a grilling from US lawmakers about the impacts of the company's products on children, and last month a global alliance of child protection campaigners and experts sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging him to share the company's research on the topic.
Facebook has said the leaked documents have been used to paint a false picture of the company's work.
In May, a group of more than 40 state attorneys general wrote to the company asking it to abandon plans for the kids-focused app.