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Lawmaker: More legislation may be needed to protect young people on social media

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(The Center Square) – As Facebook’s parent company announces new safeguards to protect young people, an Illinois lawmaker says more needs to be done.

Meta, which also owns Instagram, announced Thursday that it would hide more content on its apps from teens after calls for the social media giant to better protect children from harmful content. The company has been under pressure in the U.S. and in Europe over allegations that its apps are addictive and have helped contribute to a mental health crisis.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said she plans to introduce legislation in Illinois to address mental health problems among young people.

“You talk to teachers in your school districts and they will tell you that the No. 1 issue that they are dealing with is mental health breakdowns, and they’re coming to Springfield for more money,” Rezin told The Center Square. “We need to ask ourselves why are we seeing these breakdowns, especially in minors.”

Meta whistleblower Arturo Bejar told a U.S. Senate subcommittee in November that the company was aware of the harms its products had on teens but failed to take action.

Illinois joined dozens of other states in a class action lawsuit against Meta, alleging the tech giant deliberately engineered Facebook and Instagram to be addictive to children. The lawsuit claims that Meta’s business practices violate the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, as well as other consumer protection laws.

“Meta knows that its social media platforms have features that exacerbate issues young people have with depression, anxiety, body image dysmorphia and thoughts of self harm,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said when announcing the lawsuit last October.

This week, Meta announced dozens of tools they said will empower parents and youth and the legislative approaches they support that are being introduced around the country. They include hiding age-inappropriate content and removing violating content from its apps.

The company is also providing updates to Facebook’s and Instagram’s content recommendation settings for teens in an effort to make it more difficult for people to come across potentially sensitive content or accounts in places like Search and Explore.

Meta said it expects to complete the updates over the coming weeks.

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