Paxton joins a bipartisan group of state attorneys general in the investigation from at least 11 other states, including California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont.
Paxton’s press release states that Meta is under investigation for “providing and promoting its social media platform Instagram to children and young adults” despite knowing that its use is associated with physical and mental harms.
Paxton states that “Meta’s own internal research shows that using Instagram is associated with increased risks of depression, eating disorders, and even suicide.”
According to Paxton, even with its research showing Instagram was causing harm, Meta ignored the data. He writes that the investigation will target “Meta’s efforts to increase the frequency and duration of young users’ engagement and the resulting harms caused by such extended engagement.”
The investigation into Meta follows the release of “The Facebook Papers,” a trove of internal documents shared by a former employee to The Wall Street Journal. The documents detailed internal research conducted by the company that suggested teenagers suffered body image issues when using Instagram.
The study found that “comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves” and that “roughly a third of teenage girls in a survey who already felt bad about their bodies said Instagram made them feel worse.”
Meta has disputed the characterization of the documents since the initial reports into the contents began and has said that its internal research efforts are intended to pinpoint issues so the company can address them.
Pratiti Raychoudhury, a vice president and head of research at Facebook, said in a company blog post in September that “it is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is ‘toxic’ for teen girls.”
He stated that stories on the research have lacked context, left out vital information, and were a poor interpretation of data. He also noted that the company’s internal research found positives that were not being reported on, including the fact that on 11 of 12 well-being issues, the surveyed teenage girls said that Instagram made them feel “better and not worse.”
Liza Crenshaw, a spokeswoman for Meta, responded to the investigating attorney generals in a statement saying that the accusations were false and “demonstrate a deep misunderstanding of the facts.”
She added that “while challenges in protecting young people online impact the entire industry, we’ve led the industry in combating bullying and supporting people struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-injury, and eating disorders.”