Instagram has nearly 1.2 billion users, but that number is probably not growing fast enough for the company that recently found a new market segment to focus on – children.
A moralist, who has been leading Instagram for the past three years, confirmed last week that the Facebook-controlled photo-sharing app is working on a version for kids under 13.
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“Part of the solution is to create an Instagram version for young people or children where parents have transparency or control,” Musari told BuzzFeed. “More and more children are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends,” Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne told The Verge.
“Currently, parents do not have many options, so we are working on building additional products – as we did with Messenger Kids – that are suitable for children and managed by parents. We are testing bringing an experience that is controlled by the parents to Instagram to help the children keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests and more. ”
1. A history of violence
The report that the company plans to build a product for children under 13 came just two days after Instagram itself published a post in which it admits that the company needs to do more to protect its young users. This follows a wave of public criticism of the high level of toxicity on the platform and the bullying and abuse that users experience on it. Although the company is actively developing a product intended exclusively for children, already today over 7% of its users are aged 13 to 17 (opening a user account under the age of 13 is prohibited according to the company’s regulations) and almost 30% of them under the age of 24.
The company’s children’s messenger platform (designed for ages 6 to 12) has received end-to-end public condemnation from child health-related organizations, and the company has also received official requests, including from a collective of 95 organizations and experts in the field, to remove the product due to social, psychological and health damage. May cause children. Studies have shown that such products impair a child’s development, because they normalize from an early age the perception that social connections exist to generate profits. In addition, there is a concern that like any technological product, such platforms are not immune to bugs that put young users at risk. As indeed happened in 2019 when the children’s messenger allowed thousands of children to connect to groups with unauthorized users, in violation of existing laws. Tiktok YouTube has been fined in the past for exposing children to ads. Facebook said with the launch of Messenger for Kids that they have worked with organized groups of parents and experts to bring to market a product that meets all concerns and meets stricter standards than COPPA regulations. It was later revealed that Facebook itself took part in the funding of those groups.
2. Chronicle of failure
The current wave of public criticism is not the first time that it has been claimed that social networks endanger users. In fact, for the past four years, the public and political perception has prevailed that Facebook, on its many platforms, does not know, is able or willing to effectively monitor its products and they are repeatedly used as a tool to spread false and conspiratorial information that calls for and incites violence and hatred. Anyone who knows little about the history of social networks in general and Facebook in particular, can not argue that the possible consequences of Instagram for children can not be predicted. How in this reality does Facebook allow itself to continue business as usual, not to try at any stage to act in the spirit of the period, to grow and restore its image? There are two answers to this.
The first and obvious answer is that she can. Since its inception, Facebook has taken advantage of every channel that comes its way to making a profit. Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that the social network’s stated goal – “to bring people together” – is only a by-product of its main mission – to make a lot of money. This may be good news for shareholders, but less so for the entire world. The result is a company that skips from one scandal to another without looking back or expressing remorse. Facebook became famous, among other things, for deleting journalists ‘user accounts, enticing children to purchase games on their parents’ credit cards, providing private data for political campaigns, secretly paying users (including teens) to install apps to track them, and even running psychological trials on its users without Their knowledge.
Again and again, Facebook raises the trust of its users. In fact, public trust in Facebook is so low that even during the period when Edward Snowden revealed the NSA’s systematic surveillance of American citizens, a survey by the Pew Research Institute found that 56% of the public expressed trust in the agency and only 45% expressed confidence in Facebook. But these figures have never been reflected in Facebook’s profit line, which except for one year (2019), continued to rise. In the last five years, Facebook has recorded a cumulative net profit of about $ 95 billion. No one is stopping Facebook and Facebook is not stopping itself.
3. A future devoid of innovation
The second reason for Facebook’s current conduct is innovation or actually its absence. As early as 1994, Anna-Lee Saksnian, a professor of information science at the University of Berkeley, explained the competitive advantage of Silicon Valley over the rest of the world. She simply stated that the competitiveness and “dynamism of Silicon Valley lie in a distributed and very flat company structure that allows for very rapid change.” Most traditional societies, especially before the dot-com era and the changes it brought with it, were characterized by a very hierarchical structure that allowed innovation to occur only at the top. Start-ups, on the other hand, are characterized by a flatter structure that allows them to respond and change quickly. Of course, those small and agile companies are today the largest corporations in the world and no one embodies this change more than Facebook. Today’s Facebook is a large corporation that does not invent new products, but only works on improving processes.
Although Mark Zuckerberg and his friends invented the social network, they very quickly stopped developing their platforms technologically on their own. The company owes its resounding growth to a string of acquisitions by innovative companies in their own right, such as WhatsApp and Instagram, alongside a strategy that advocated shameless copying from other companies. Facebook, for example, has developed an accurate reconstruction of Snapshot’s history, embedded real-time space sharing or Telegram’s one-way channels. When Facebook failed to acquire the competitors it simply meticulously and Sisypheanly copied every element that made them a competition in the first place.
Facebook is not an innovative company, so when it thinks about the future, and looks for where the next growth will come from, it looks at the product it has and tries to milk it a little more. The option chosen this time is to take the existing and profitable platform that it has and offer it to the most sensitive and vulnerable audience of all.