Facebook said on Monday that it had paused development of an “Instagram Kids” service that would be tailored for children 13 years old or younger amid questions about the app’s effect on young people’s mental health.
The announcement comes ahead of a congressional hearing this week about internal research conducted by Facebook, and reported in The Wall Street Journal, that showed the harmful mental health effects Instagram was having on teenage girls.
Facebook said it still wanted to build an Instagram product intended for children that will have a more “age appropriate experience,” but was postponing the plans in the face of the outside criticism.
“This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today,” Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post.
Facebook has argued that young people are using Instagram anyway, despite age-requirement rules, so it would be better to develop a version more suitable for them with more parental controls. YouTube, which is owned by Google, has released a children’s version of its app.
But since it became public that Facebook was working on the app earlier this year, the company has faced criticism from policymakers, regulators, child safety groups and consumer rights groups. They have argued that it hooks them on the app at a younger age rather than protects them from problems with the service, including child predatory grooming, bullying and body shaming.
Opposition to Facebook’s plans gained momentum this month when The Journal published a series of articles based on leaked internal documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing. Facebook’s internal research showed that Instagram, in particular, had a negative mental health effect on young people, especially young girls, even while company executives publicly attempted to minimize the app’s downsides.
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The financial world is watching the struggles of China Evergrande Group, one of the largest property developers on earth and certainly the most indebted. Last week, a deadline to make an $83 million payment to foreign investors came and went with no indication that Evergrande had met its obligations, raising questions about what would happen if its huge debt load went sour, Keith Bradsher reports for The New York Times.
China has a lot riding on its ability to contain the fallout from an Evergrande collapse. After Xi Jinping, China’s most powerful leader in generations, began his second term in 2017, he identified reining in financial risk as one of the “great battles” for his administration. As he approaches a likely third term in power that would start next year, it could be politically damaging if his government were to mismanage Evergrande.
The government doesn’t want to move in yet because it hopes Evergrande’s struggles will show other Chinese companies that they need to be disciplined in their finances, say people with knowledge of its deliberations who spoke on condition of anonymity. But it has an array of financial tools that it believes are strong enough to stem a financial panic if matters worsen.
The government is “still going to provide a guarantee” for much of Evergrande’s activities, said Zhu Ning, deputy dean of the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, “but the investors are going to have to sweat.”
Since January, after Britain completed the final stage of Brexit, employers have been unable to freely recruit European workers. The pandemic has also exacerbated a crisis that stems from a long-term shortage of British truck drivers.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain reversed course and offered thousands of visas to foreign truckers to combat a driver shortage that has left some supermarket shelves empty and caused long lines at gas stations, Stephen Castle reports for The New York Times.
The decision, announced late Saturday, reflects the growing alarm within the government over a disruption to supplies that has prompted panic buying and, in some places, caused fuel to run out and gas stations to close.
The post-Brexit exodus of European workers is only one cause of the long-term driver shortage. The industry has had difficulties attracting workers to jobs that are traditionally lower paid and require long, grueling hours away from home. Truckers have also complained that safe parking spaces and rest stops can be hard to find.
So great is the concern that there has been speculation that the military could be called up to drive trucks. That has not yet happened, but Defense Ministry staff members will be asked to help speed up the process for truck licensing applications.