Meta faces accusations of targeting kids in legal complaint


SAN FRANCISCO: In a recently unsealed legal complaint, it has been alleged that Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, intentionally designed its social platforms to engage and retain younger users.

According to media reports, the complaint, revealed in reports by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, claims that Meta was aware of millions of complaints regarding underage users on Instagram but failed to disclose this information and only deactivated a small fraction of the flagged accounts.

Documents cited in the complaint reportedly include admissions from Meta officials, acknowledging that the company purposely exploited characteristics of youthful psychology, such as impulsive behavior, susceptibility to peer pressure, and an underestimation of risks when designing its products.

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Despite company policies prohibiting users under the age of 13, the documents indicate that Facebook and Instagram were popular among this demographic.

Meta, in response to the allegations, stated to The Associated Press that the complaint misrepresents its decade-long efforts to enhance the safety of the online experience for teenagers. The company highlighted having “over 30 tools to support them and their parents.”

Regarding the restriction of younger users, Meta argued that age verification poses a “complex industry challenge” and suggested a shift of responsibility to app stores and parents.

The company expressed support for federal legislation that would require app stores to obtain parental approval whenever individuals under 16 download apps.

The legal complaint disclosed internal emails suggesting a potential conflict within Meta about addressing the issue of underage users.

While a Facebook safety executive hinted in a 2019 email that cracking down on younger users might impact the company’s business, the same executive expressed frustration a year later.

The frustration reportedly stemmed from the company’s lack of enthusiasm for identifying and removing younger children from its platforms, despite actively studying the usage patterns of underage users for business purposes.

The complaint also highlighted instances where Meta faced a backlog of up to 2.5 million accounts of younger children awaiting action.

The company’s stance on addressing these issues continues to be a subject of scrutiny amid growing concerns about the impact of social media on the younger demographic.

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