Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is under fire following a lawsuit filed by the New Mexico Attorney General. The lawsuit, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, accuses the tech giant and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, of allowing their platforms to become a "marketplace for predators in search of children." This serious allegation puts the spotlight on the digital safety measures—or lack thereof—for young users on these popular social media platforms.
The complaint details findings from an investigation conducted by the New Mexico attorney general’s office. Test profiles simulating teenagers and preteens were created on Facebook and Instagram to assess the platforms' safety mechanisms.
The results were alarming: the profiles not only attracted inappropriate recommendations, including an account posting adult pornography but also lured predators. A particularly disturbing case was a test account, posing as a 13-year-old girl, which amassed over 6,700 followers, predominantly adult males.
These followers reportedly invited the decoy to communicate on private messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Kik, and even suggested offline meetings.
Meta's Response and Ongoing Legal Challenges
The lawsuit explicitly states, "Meta's platforms Facebook and Instagram are a breeding ground for predators who target children for human trafficking, the distribution of images, grooming, and solicitation." It criticizes the ease with which teens and preteens can register for unrestricted accounts due to the absence of robust age verification processes.
Once registered, the suit claims, Meta directs harmful and inappropriate material at these young users. In response, a Meta spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal, “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”.
However, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez contends that Meta is downplaying the dangers children encounter on its platforms. He accuses the company of prioritizing engagement and ad revenue over the safety of vulnerable users.
This lawsuit is one among dozens facing Meta, alleging that its platforms adversely affect the mental health of children.