TOPEKA – (October 5, 2021) – U.S. Senate hearings are a critical opportunity to bring to light Facebook’s business practices that target children and young people and disregard their health to boost corporate revenues, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt yesterday told Senate leaders.
Schmidt joined in a bipartisan coalition with 51 other state and territorial attorneys general in a letter to a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation supporting the panel’s decision to hold hearings into Facebook’s and other social media’s predatory behavior.
Attorneys general have been watchful and concerned about the negative effects of social media on youth, particularly given the social media companies' dominant position in the marketplace. Those concerns have grown with the recent research from Facebook’s own internal studies showing that social media is causing or contributing to increased mental distress, bullying, suicide, and other self-harm for a significant number of youth.
“Facebook and other social media platforms understand that their business models necessitate increasing the amount of time that kids engage with their platforms to maximize monetization,” Schmidt and the other attorneys general wrote. “This prompts social media companies to design their algorithms to psychologically manipulate young users into a state of addiction to their cell phone screens.”
Yesterday’s letter 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. Schmidt believes the current and future well-being of children and young people is at stake.
In May 2021, Schmidt joined a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general who wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging the company to abandon plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. Last week, in advance of the Congressional hearings, Facebook announced its intent to “pause” the project. The attorneys general believe the project should be abandoned altogether.
The attorneys general wrote yesterday: “Parents and children seeking a sense of balance and well-being are forced to combat these sophisticated methods seemingly alone. This is simply not a fair fight. When our young people’s health becomes mere collateral damage of greater profits for social media companies, it is time for the government to intervene.”
Schmidt also is one of 46 state attorneys general, along with the attorneys general of Guam and the District of Columbia, who have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Facebook over its business practices. That lawsuit, which was filed last December, remains pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
A copy of the attorneys general letter can be found at https://bit.ly/3uHnjCR.