Democrats in the Florida Senate are leaning on Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody to join her counterparts in 44 states in opposing Facebook’s plan to launch an Instagram platform for children under age 13.
For all that Republicans in Florida have been criticizing the social media platforms, even passing legislation barring them from “deplatforming,” or kicking off, political candidates, party leaders have been silent on the potential harm to young kids posed by Facebook’s plans, the caucus said in a written statement Tuesday.
“Attorney General Moody’s silence on this issue speaks volumes,” the caucus wrote.
“Gov. DeSantis and Tallahassee Republicans would rather focus on partisan culture wars than legitimate child safety and mental health concerns plaguing families across the state,” they said.
The caucus planned to follow up with a letter to Moody.
Lauren Cassedy, a spokeswoman for the A.G., defended Moody’s stance on protecting children.
“The attorney general, as chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking and a mother, believes that protecting children from online predators and human traffickers is extremely important,” Cassedy said.
“That is why, our statewide prosecutors work every day to lock up human traffickers, and the attorney general regularly provides online security resources directly to parents and continues to encourage parents to closely monitor their children’s use of social media.”
In a letter Monday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a bipartisan array of attorneys general for states including California, New York, and Texas warned that “social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges.”
The letter cited research showing “a link between young people’s use of social media and the increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and suicidality among youth.”
The Democrats urged “Facebook to abandon these plans,” adding that the platform “has historically failed to protect the welfare of children.” They added that social platforms are susceptible to the sexual exploitation of minors, saying that, “in 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images.”
Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and now allows people 13 and up to use the platform, according to The New York Times. The Times wrote that Facebook defended its plan for the launch, “saying its development of a children’s version of Instagram would have safety and privacy in mind.”
Meanwhile, GOP officials in Florida, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have supported efforts to punish social media platforms for kicking politicians off for spreading disinformation, including former President Donald Trump for inciting the U.S. Capitol insurrection.
“Instead of working to combat the social media-fueled rise in in mental distress amongst young people — including self-injurious behavior, suicidality, depression, and eating disorders — Republicans have fixated on a vindictive deplatforming agenda meant to punish private businesses for banning Donald Trump and his dangerous spread of disinformation leading to the Capitol attack on Jan. 6,” the Senate Democrats said.
“Research has shown that social media can be extremely harmful to children’s physical, emotional, and psychological wellbeing — we urge Attorney General Moody to stand up to Gov. DeSantis and demonstrate leadership on behalf of Florida’s vulnerable children.”
Moody has joined a multistate antitrust suit accusing Facebook Inc. of abusing its market power to stifle competition to the detriment of its users and a similar action against Google.