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Lawsuit in New Mexico Alleges that Meta Facilitates Child Exploitation on Its Platforms

Meta is facing a civil lawsuit over child safety, as New Mexico investigators claim it’s failing to protect minors’ Instagram and Facebook accounts. New Mexico’s attorney general Raul Torrez and his office led the investigation. In it, test Facebook and Instagram accounts of four fictitious children were established to determine whether Meta’s algorithms intentionally pushed explicit content to those accounts. New Mexico’s civil lawsuit is yet another child exploitation case in which the company is involved, following suits filed by over 40 states in October. In those, it was claimed that Meta had purposefully designed its platforms with features that may cause addiction to social media use among minors.

Torrez claimed investigators focused on child exploitation and human trafficking after concluding that Meta is failing to provide adequate measures to protect children’s profiles from being exploited by predatory adults online. The civil lawsuit also relies on data from numerous recent criminal cases in which predators used Facebook or Instagram accounts to actively groom children.

When setting up the four fictitious accounts, investigators provided adult birth dates for all individuals, just like many children tend to lie about their age on social media. AI-generated photos were also used, showing pictures of minors instead of adult individuals. Shortly after those accounts were set up, the lawsuit claims, Meta’s algorithms started to push sexual-related content to them. Just two days after the creation of a fictitious 13-year-old girl’s account, Meta’s algorithms suggested that they follow another account that actively posted adult content on Facebook.

According to the lawsuit, accounts that show an interest in sexual content get approached by predatory individuals very quickly. Quite alarmingly, one of the test accounts joined a group for job-seeking in New Mexico. The fake account of a girl was soon contacted by a member of the group who offered a price if she indulged in a pornographic video. Some of these ‘recruiting’ attempts were so disturbing, said Torrez, that his office has referred them for potential prosecution.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Torrez further adds:

“The features of the platform itself are not engineered in a way to prevent this matchmaking from likely predators and likely victims.”

Meta states it works to prevent predatory adults from contacting minors on its platforms. However, the civil lawsuit claims all test accounts were flooded with requests from adults who engaged in much more than untoward compliments.

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