Senators to Zuckerberg: “With a documented track record of failure to protect children and teens, Meta has lost parents’, pediatricians’, policymakers’, and the public’s trust.”
Washington (March 2, 2023) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on the company to halt its reported plan to open Horizon Worlds, its landmark virtual reality environment platform in the metaverse, to teens aged 13 to 17. In their letter, the Senators highlighted Meta’s repeated failures to protect young teens from harmful interactions, advertising, and content on Facebook and Instagram, as well as Meta’s own internal research, which finds gaps in the company’s understanding of user safety in social virtual reality experiences.
“Meta’s plan to target young people with offerings in the metaverse is particularly concerning in light of your consistent failures to protect young users,” Senators Markey and Blumenthal wrote in their letter to Zuckerberg. “With a documented track record of failure to protect children and teens, Meta has lost parents’, pediatricians’, policymakers’, and the public’s trust.”
“As our constituents grow increasingly concerned about the effects of online platforms and social media apps on teens’ well-being, your plans to imminently pull these young people into an under-researched, potentially dangerous virtual realm with consequences for their physical and mental health is unacceptable,” they continued. “Any strategy to invite young users into a digital space rife with potential harms should not be driven by a goal to maximize profit. We call on you to immediately halt Meta’s plan to bring teen users onto Horizon Worlds.”
As author of the landmark 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Senator Markey has long championed protections for children and teens online. Last Congress, Senator Markey and colleagues successfully passed their CAMRA Act in the 2023 end-of-year spending package, legislation that will stand up a federal research program on technology and media’s effects on infants, children, and teens in core areas of cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development. In the new Congress, Senator Markey will reintroduce his Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act to strengthen online privacy protections for the 21st century and safeguard young teens’ personal information online.
In February 2022, Senator Markey wrote to the Federal Trade Commission urging the agency to use its authority to ensure that children are protected from threats to their privacy, safety, and wellbeing in the metaverse.