In a legal battle with far-reaching implications, the New Mexico attorney general, Raul Torrez, has asserted that Facebook and Instagram, both owned by Meta, serve as a “breeding ground” for child predators.

The lawsuit, filed in state court, alleges that Meta’s platforms have become unsafe spaces for children, facilitating the exchange of exploitative content and posing serious risks to their well-being.

According to Torrez, his office conducted an investigation that involved setting up fake accounts on Facebook and Instagram, resulting in the reception of explicit images and inappropriate solicitations.

The attorney general contends that Meta has failed to take adequate voluntary measures to protect its youngest users and is now seeking court-mandated changes.

The lawsuit takes a distinctive approach by arguing that Meta’s algorithms go beyond acting as a mere publisher.

Unlike other platforms shielded by US law from liability for user-generated content, Meta’s software, according to the filing, actively “searches and disseminates” sexually exploitative material.

The suit claims that these algorithms create a virtual marketplace for predators, emphasizing that Facebook and Instagram are not just presenting content but are implicated in the creation and propagation of harmful content.

The legal action contends that Meta has deceived young users and their families about the safety of its platform, violating laws prohibiting deceptive practices.

It characterizes the company’s actions as contributing to a hazard to public health and safety, with Facebook and Instagram allegedly serving as a marketplace for predators seeking to exploit children.

The lawsuit even personally names Meta’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, alleging that he had direct involvement in decisions and refused to implement design changes or investments that could enhance child safety.

The filing accuses Zuckerberg of making misleading public statements about the company’s commitment to safeguarding children while contradicting those promises in private.

In response to these allegations, Meta defended its efforts to combat child exploitation, emphasizing the use of sophisticated technology, employing child safety experts, and collaborating with law enforcement agencies.

The company claimed to report content to organizations dedicated to child protection and expressed a commitment to eradicating online predators.

This legal challenge is part of a broader pattern of scrutiny and legal action against Meta in the United States.

In October, dozens of US states filed a lawsuit alleging that the company had contributed to a youth mental health crisis and misled the public about the risks of using social media.

Additionally, numerous families have initiated legal proceedings, asserting that Meta’s platforms are inherently harmful.

Internationally, European Union regulators have sought more information about the measures taken by Meta to protect children from abuse.

In response to concerns raised earlier this year, Meta established a task force focused on addressing child exploitation, claiming to have expanded content policing and developed new technologies to identify predators.

As the legal battles intensify, the outcome of these cases could have significant implications for the regulation and accountability of social media platforms, especially concerning their responsibility to protect the well-being of young users.

Last Updated: 07 December 2023