Instagram says it's putting a hold on its 'Instagram Kids' project for under-13s, citing backlash

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Instagram says it's putting a hold on its 'Instagram Kids' project for under-13s, citing backlash
Instagram head Adam Mosseri. Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED
  • Instagram announced Monday it's pausing its project to build an Instagram for under-13s.
  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the project, Instagram Kids, leaked too early.
  • He also cited public backlash following a report on research into Instagram's effect on teenage girls.

Instagram is putting a hold on its project to build a special version of its platform for under-13s, the company announced Monday in a blog post.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said in a series of tweets that news of the project, called Instagram Kids, had leaked to the press "way before we knew what it would be," and had provoked a backlash to which the company had "few answers."

BuzzFeed reported in March that Facebook was building an Instagram app for children under the age of 13.

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Both Instagram's blog post and Mosseri's tweets were deleted after the initial announcement, then republished soon after. Insider has asked Facebook, Instagram's parent company, for comment.

Mosseri added that a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, which reported that the company was internally aware its platform was having an adverse effect on the mental health of teenage girls, had stoked further fears.

"We're going to take the time to work with parents, policymakers, regulators, experts, to demonstrate why this project is valuable, and how it helps keep teens safe," Mosseri said.

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Mosseri said that although the project was on hold, the company still believed it was worthwhile.

"We firmly believe that it's better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them - where parents can supervise and control their experience - than relying on an app's ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID," he said.

The Journal's report led to a political backlash in Washington. A bipartisan duo of US Senators announced a probe into the impact of Facebook, Instagram's parent company, on young people. Separately, a group of Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to stop development of Instagram Kids.

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Instagram's head of research Pratiti Raychoudhury took issue with The Journal's reporting of Instagram's internal research into teen health in a blog post on Sunday.

"It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is 'toxic' for teen girls," Raychoudhury wrote.

The same research showed that out of teenage girls who said they struggled with issues including loneliness, anxiety, and eating problems, the majority said Instagram had made them feel better, rather than worse, she said. Raychoudhury did not give a figure for how big that majority was.

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The Journal's report on internal concerns about the platform's effect on teenage girls formed part of a wider series of articles about Facebook. In a statement last week, Facebook's vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said the series contained "deliberate mischaracterizations" of the company.

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