In a shocking turn of events, the state of New Mexico has launched a lawsuit against tech giants Facebook and Instagram, accusing them of being a “breeding ground” for predators who target children. This latest legal action comes on the heels of similar lawsuits filed by over 40 states, all alleging that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has profited from children’s pain, damaged their mental health, and misled users about the safety of its platforms.
New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez stated that their investigation into Meta’s social media platforms has revealed that they are far from safe spaces for children. Instead, they have become prime locations for predators to trade child pornography, solicit minors for sex, and engage in human trafficking. The lawsuit highlights the ease with which children can bypass age restrictions on Facebook and Instagram by simply lying about their age.
Once on these platforms, children are targeted by Meta’s software, which not only keeps them engaged but also directs inappropriate content their way. The lawsuit cites a disturbing example of a 12-year-old who opened a Facebook account using a fake birthdate and was immediately recommended explicit content related to masturbation, nudity, bondage, and fetishism.
In response to the allegations, a spokesperson for Meta emphasized the company’s commitment to fighting predators. They mentioned the use of sophisticated technology, employing child safety experts, reporting content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and sharing information with other companies and law enforcement agencies. The spokesperson also revealed that Meta disabled over 500,000 accounts in August alone for violating their child safety policies.
Child exploitation online has become a pressing issue for regulators, and tech companies are under immense pressure to demonstrate that they are taking adequate measures to protect children and teens. In a joint effort, Meta and Google recently announced a new program called Lantern, where they will share signs of activity that violate their policies on child exploitation. This collaboration aims to enable platforms to detect, take down, and report problematic content more swiftly.
Interestingly, the announcement of Lantern coincided with a Senate hearing in Washington, where a former senior engineer at Meta testified that top executives, including Mark Zuckerberg, ignored his warnings about the safety of teenagers on the company’s platforms. Notably, Zuckerberg himself is named as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by New Mexico.
As the legal battle intensifies, the world watches with bated breath to see how these allegations against Facebook and Instagram will unfold. The outcome of this lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for the safety of children online and the responsibility of social media platforms in combating child exploitation.