State AGs reveal ‘damning’ details in federal case against Meta

Hillel Aron
5 Min Read


A new, mostly unredacted version
of a federal complaint against Meta revealed some startling details
about how the social media giant, which owns both Facebook and
Instagram, has managed issues relating to underage users of its
platforms.

Since early 2019, Meta has received more than 1.1
million reports of Instagram users under the age of 13, via an in-app
reporting button.

“Despite this actual knowledge, Meta disabled
only a fraction of those accounts and routinely continued to collect
children’s data without parental consent,” wrote the attorneys general
of 33 states in the newly unsealed complaint.

The state attorneys
continued: “Within the company, Meta’s actual knowledge that millions
of Instagram users are under the age of 13 is an open secret that is
routinely documented, rigorously analyzed and confirmed, and zealously
protected from disclosure to the public.”

According to a 2018
internal report, there were 4 million United States users under the age
of 13 on Instagram in 2015 — roughly 30% of all 10- to 12-year-olds in
the U.S.

The claim is supported by an internal chat message by
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, which read, “Tweens want access to
Instagram, and they lie about their age to get it now. We’d like it if
they aged up from an age appropriate version to the full [version]of
Instagram, so the explicit strategy, which is on pause, is to let them
download the main app and cater the experience to their age.”

In
the Friday filing, the attorneys general accuse Meta of violating state
and federal laws, including the Children’s Online Privacy Protection
Act. It accuses Meta of developing features to make its platforms more
addictive to young users, inducing them to use social media
compulsively.

“Meta knows that what it is doing is bad for kids,”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a written statement on
Monday. “Thanks to our unredacted federal complaint, it is now there in
black and white, and it is damning.”

The 233-pager is replete with
anecdotes supporting the claim that Meta “prioritizes engagement and
profits to the detriment of young users’ well-being.”

For
instance, the Instagram app includes a multitude of “filters” that allow
users to alter their appearance — giving them dog ears or unicorn horns
— or in one case, simulating the look of having facial plastic surgery.
Some of Meta’s leadership, according to the complaint, came to believe
that filter may have been “actively encouraging young girls into body
dysmorphia.” But Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the concerns as
“paternalistic” and vetoed a proposed ban on the plastic surgery filter,
saying there was a “clear demand” for the feature.

In a written
statement, a Meta spokesperson said, “The complaint mischaracterizes our
work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents.” It added: “We
want teens to have safe, age-appropriate experiences online, and we
have over 30 tools to support them and their parents. We’ve spent a
decade working on these issues and hiring people who have dedicated
their careers to keeping young people safe and supported online.”

Accusations
that Facebook and Instagram have been harmful to the mental health of
teenagers — particularly teen girls — have dogged the company for years.

In September 2021 the Wall Street Journal obtained
an internal report from Meta that included the finding, “We make body
image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” Many teens had told
Meta’s researchers that they felt “addicted” to Instagram; that they
wanted to check it less but weren’t able to.

The WSJ article
quoted Senator Richard Blumenthal saying, “Facebook seems to be taking a
page from the textbook of Big Tobacco — targeting teens with
potentially dangerous products while masking the science in public.”

Shortly thereafter, Bonta announced
a nationwide investigation into Instagram’s impact on young people. The
lawsuit, first filed with heavier redactions on Oct. 24, resulted in
part from that investigation.


Hillel Aron www.tucsonsentinel.com

SOURCE
2023-11-28 18:15:47 , politics Vivrr Local | TucsonSentinel.com

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