Internal documents show that Facebook is actively hiring employees to build products aimed at children under the age of 6 to expand its user base.
A blog author wrote, whose name was revised before NBC News could review the document. “For many of our products, we have historically not designed for less than 13 years.”
in a Internal blog post Published on April 9, the author wrote that the company plans to hire several jobs as it expands to offer a full range of products for children under the age of 13. The graphs show the proposed new target age groups, ranging from 6- to 9-year-olds and 10- to 12-year-olds – along with current targets for early teens 13-15, and late 16-17, and adults.
“These five age groups can be used to define the education, transparency, controls, and defaults that will meet the needs of young users,” the Facebook employee wrote.
The company’s critics say the documents are part of a long-running pattern of Facebook trying to attract younger users as soon as possible.
said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that researches the relationship between children and the digital world. “They need to focus on cleaning up their existing platforms rather than trying to get more kids into their addictive platforms at younger and younger ages.”
Facebook responded to a request for comment by referring to a blog post it wrote in response to The Wall Street Journal’s coverage of its efforts to appeal to younger audiences. Companies in a highly competitive field – including the Wall Street Journal – are making efforts to appeal to younger generations. Bearing in mind that our competitors are doing the same, it would be beneficial to spread the news if Facebook did not do this work,” the post said.
The documents were included in disclosures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission and submitted to Congress in redacted form by legal counsel Francis Haugen, who served as Facebook’s product manager until May and has filed as a whistleblower. Digital copies of the disclosures – with redactions of some names and other personal information – were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including NBC News. Most documents are digital images of company materials on computer screens.
The post was posted on Facebook’s internal message board. The author wrote, explaining that the team was planning to expand by hiring people with expertise in “global research among youth (particularly children and adolescent girls and their caregivers).” The post lists jobs for categories like Messenger Kids/Youth Platform and Instagram Child Safety and shares the name of the hiring manager for each role, which has been revised. Messenger Kids is a video calling and messaging app created by Facebook that is currently available for kids.
Post includes Diagram titled “Where have we been and where we are going…” explaining how the company plans to expand to an audience below the current limit of 13. The document cites the FTC’s current regulations on online services directed at children under 13 outdated, called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule , or COPPA.
in a graph It describes how the company is currently working with young users, and explains why the company was cut out at age 13. “The COPPA line is simple: We treat 13+ like other users and ask young people not to use our products.” The adjacent diagram is titled “And in the future” and the “stop” line representing current restrictions is removed and replaced with user levels including “Teens 10-12” and “Children 6-9”. The slide does not explain how the company will deal with current COPPA restrictions in the future.
In a slide titled “Youth Design Requires Attention to Cognitive and Social Maturity,” cartoon characters are used to describe different age groups, such as 6-9 year olds.
This post came just one week before a coalition of 35 organizations and 64 individual experts, coordinated by Fairplay, formerly the Campaign for Free Business Childhood, a Boston-based nonprofit, raised concerns about privacy, screen time, mental health, self-esteem and commercial pressure. In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook.
“These documents show that rather than working to make its existing platforms less harmful to teens, Facebook’s priority has been to entrap younger children and create a pipeline for lifelong users of Facebook products,” Fairplay CEO Josh Golin told NBC News. “Despite Facebook’s claims that Instagram for Kids is motivated by creating a safer experience for pre-teen children, it is clear that the real reason is that Facebook is focusing on children to drive growth. Facebook products are not safe for younger children, and the company is constantly putting in profits Before the well-being of young people it does not have platforms to build businesses for children.”
In September, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced that the company would pause development of a version of the photo-sharing app for children. “I still firmly believe that building is a good thing A version of Instagram designed to be safe for little girls, but we want to take the time to talk to parents, researchers, and safety experts and come to a consensus on how to proceed,” Craig Melvin said on NBC’s “TODAY.”
Facebook declined to comment on whether the company is continuing to hire for these positions. But a review of Facebook’s job listings doesn’t seem to show these vacancies.