By Nitasha Tiku for Wired.com

IN DECEMBER, WHEN Facebook launched Messenger Kids, an app for preteens and children as young as 6, the company stressed that it had worked closely with leading experts in order to safeguard younger users. What Facebook didn’t say is that many of those experts had received funding from Facebook.

Equally notable are the experts Facebook did not consult. Although Facebook says it spent 18 months developing the app, Common Sense Media and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, two large nonprofits in the field, say they weren’t informed about it until weeks or days before the app’s debut. “They had reached out to me personally Friday before it launched, when obviously it was a fait accompli,” says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Facebook, he says, is “trying to represent that they have so much more support for this than they actually do.” Academics Sherry Turkle and Jean Twenge, well-known researchers whose work on children and technology is often cited, didn’t know about the app until after it launched.

The omissions quickly came back to bite Facebook. Eight weeks after the Messenger Kids debut, Golin helped organize a group of nearly 100 child-health advocates who asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to kill the app because it could undermine healthy child development. That same week, Common Sense Media announced that it would help fund a lobbying effort around the downside of addictive technology, including a curriculum1 distributed at 55,000 public schools that would highlight concerns, such as a possible link between heavy social media use and depression.

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