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Instagram to ‘pause’ development of new app for children

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said Monday that the company has paused development of a version of the photo sharing app for children.

Mosseri, speaking to the “TODAY” show’s Craig Melvin, said he still believes in the core idea of the new app.

“I still firmly believe that it’s a good thing to build a version of Instagram that’s designed to be safe for tweens, but we want to take the time to talk to parents and researchers and safety experts and get to more consensus about how to move forward,” he said. “If anybody leaves using Instagram feeling worse about themselves, that’s an important issue we need to take seriously and that we need to figure out how to address.”

“We think a healthier place to end up is to have a version of Instagram that was designed for tweens that parents have the option to give their kids access to,” Mosseri said.

He added that the company was already working on app features that would address body image issues, such as prompting users to try looking into other topics while using the app or to take a social media break.

In a series of tweets, Mosseri said that the project was meant to be different than Instagram but that it leaked publicly before it was ready. That combined with ongoing concern over the impact of Instagram on young people caused the company to reconsider the new app, he wrote.

“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,” he wrote. “Critics will see this as a concession that the project is a bad idea. That’s not it.”

Facebook and Instagram have been under growing pressure in recent months to provide more transparency into their platforms. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal published a series of articles that suggested Facebook, which owns Instagram, knew its photo and video sharing app had a harmful effect on teenage girls.

Since then, the company has been working to respond to the leaks. On Sunday night, Facebook’s head of research, Pratiti Raychoudhury, put out a blog post arguing that the Journal had mischaracterized the company’s internal research, though it has yet to fully release it.

But Facebook is not just fighting a battle against critics. Growing interest from lawmakers has put it in the position of having to defend itself from ongoing calls for greater regulation. On Thursday, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, is scheduled to testify at a hearing held by the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection to discuss the Instagram report.

Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, a Boston-based nonprofit group dedicated to ending marketing aimed at children, said Instagram should cancel the app entirely.

“They should go ahead and fully pull the plug on it but it’s an important step and it’s good that, for the first time, Facebook is listening to the near unanimous voices telling them that this is in an incredibly harmful idea for children,” he said. “It feels really good to be listened to and that we were able to mobilize so many people and voices against this idea and it’s testament to growing power of the tech accountability movement.”

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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