Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta is in hot water again over child safety as the New Mexico attorney general files a lawsuit alleging that the company is promoting accounts of child predators.
In a report published by The Wall Street Journal (Paywall), the lawsuit claims that both Facebook and Instagram actively promote content and accounts that could harm teens. The report notes that the attorney general’s office conducted an experiment where they created teen or preteen test accounts on the platform. They bypassed Meta’s age restrictions by inputting adult birth dates but made sure the content posted online was indicative of something posted by teens, including posting about losing a tooth and getting into seventh grade. Furthermore, the AG’s office used AI to generate account profile photos.
The AG’s office noted that the accounts included explicit images, texts, and even sexual propositions from strangers, not to mention that Meta’s algorithm recommended sexual content to the test accounts. One test account claiming to be a 13-year-old got more than 6,700 followers, most of whom were men. They received messages from strangers asking for WhatsApp, Telegram, and Kik contact details or to meet them offline. The account also received messages “filled with pictures and videos of genitalia, including exposed penises, which she received at least 3-4 times per week”. Not only that, but just days after setting up the account, investigators were suggested to follow an account with over 119k followers that posted adult porn.
According to the lawsuit, the AG’s office attempted to report the content to Meta but was “advised that it found no violation of Community Standards”.
Meta’s platforms Facebook and Instagram are a breeding ground for predators who target children for human trafficking, the distribution of sexual images, grooming, and solicitation. Teens and preteens can easily register for unrestricted accounts because of a lack of age verification. When they do, Meta directs harmful and inappropriate material at them.
A Meta spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the company uses technologies to prevent teens from accessing explicit content.
We use sophisticated technology, hire child safety experts, report content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and share information and tools with other companies and law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to help root out predators.
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez says that Meta is downplaying the dangers that children face on its social media platform and is trading the safety of children for profits.
Meta is also facing lawsuits for negatively impacting the mental health of youths. Earlier this year, various child safety groups urged Meta to stop the Metaverse rollout to minors.