Meta’s Head of Youth Pavni Diwanji, who was responsible for overseeing Instagram’s highly controversial version of its product aimed at children, is leaving Meta as part of a restructuring.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Diwanji is stepping down and Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri will take over work on the company’s youth-focused products going forward.
“We’re grateful to Pavni for all she’s done for Instagram,” Meta spokeswoman Stephanie Otway told the Journal. “While we’re making a few organizational changes, developing safe, age-appropriate experiences for teens remains one of our most important priorities at Meta.”
Diwanji joined Instagram in December of 2020 and was previously at Google where she was the lead on the company’s development of Youtube Kids and other products aimed at children and families.
In March of 2021, Buzzfeed reported that Instagram was working on a version of its app aimed at children that was headed by both Diwanji and Mosseri. Instagram sought to make the child-focused app as it is against Instagram’s policy — and a violation of COPPA rules — for children under the age of 13 to use the app. Instagram had said it needed to do more to protect its youngest users, and the company seems to recognize that while it forbids anyone younger than 13 from using the app, many lie to the age check procedure used in the app by using fake birthdays.
Instagram has a vested interest in starting people on its app as early as possible to refresh and grow its user base, so from the company’s perspective, targeting children was the best way to do that. After her success on YouTube Kids, Diwanji’s hire made perfect sense. But the news of Instagram’s intention to build a version of its app for kids was met with considerable pushback.
The Rocky Past of Instagram for Kids
Two months later, four Democratic lawmakers expressed concern over the project and wrote CEO Mark Zuckerberg a detailed, 14-point letter asking many questions about the initiative. Two weeks later, 35 children’s and consumer groups called for the cancellation of the app’s development, saying those at the older end of the demographic with Instagram accounts are unlikely to switch to a “babyish version” while at the same time, a child-focused app would hook younger users into an endless routine that includes constant scrolling and body-shaming.
A month later, 44 state attorneys general followed suit, pushing for the company to abandon its plans for the app, stating that social media, in general, is harmful to the emotional and mental well-being of children and that building a platform that specifically targets them would worsen the cyberbullying problems that already plague youths.
Facing mounting pressure and the waves of bad publicity that came along with a bombshell report that showed Facebook knew its app was harmful to young users but did nothing to address it, Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri announced that the company was “pausing” development of Instagram for Kids. Diwanji’s departure indicates that the pause may be closer to a cancelation than initially implied.
Image credits: All photos licensed via Depositphotos.