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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Attorney General Donovan Co-Leads Bipartisan Coalition in Supporting Hearings on Social Media use by Kids

October 5, 2021

Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, (802) 828-3171

Letter Expresses Concern About Companies’ Knowledge of Dangers to Youth, Especially Girls

Attorney General T.J. Donovan is co-leading a bipartisan coalition of 52 attorneys general expressing strong support for the hearings being conducted by the U.S. Senate Committee addressing protection and safety of kids and teens using social media.

Attorneys general, who have been monitoring with concern the impacts of social media on youth, cite recent research from Facebook’s own internal studies showing that social media is inflicting harm. According to these internal studies, this harm comes in the form of increased mental distress, bullying, suicide, and other self-harm on a significant number of kids.

“I applaud the U.S. Senate for holding these important hearings on the negative and harmful impacts social media has on kids,” said Attorney General Donovan. “As our letter states, ‘when our young people’s health becomes mere collateral damage of greater profits of social media companies, it is time for the government to intervene.’”

The letter, sent last night to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security, 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. Attorneys general express in their letter that the current and future well-being of our nation’s youth is at stake.

In May 2021, a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging the company to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. That request was ignored. Last week, in advance of the Congressional hearings, Facebook announced their intent to “pause” the project. The attorneys general believe the project should be abandoned altogether.

The attorneys general write in their letter that “More engagement by the user equals more data to leverage for advertising, which equals greater profit. This prompts social media companies to design their algorithms and other features to psychologically manipulate young users into a state of addiction to their cell phone screens.”

A copy of the coalition’s letter can be found here.

Last modified: October 5, 2021