New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed a lawsuit on Saturday against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, alleging that these platforms guide children towards explicit content and enable child predators to find and contact minors.
“Our investigation into Meta’s social media platforms demonstrates that they are not safe spaces for children but rather prime locations for predators to trade child pornography and solicit minors for sex,” Torrez said in a press release announcing the suit.
“As a career prosecutor who specialized in internet crimes against children, I am committed to using every available tool to put an end to these horrific practices and I will hold companies — and their executives — accountable whenever they put profits ahead of children’s safety,” he added.
Torrez’s office conducted an undercover investigation of Meta’s platforms, creating decoy accounts of children aged 14 and younger. The investigation revealed that Meta’s platforms proactively served and directed underage users to a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images, even when the child expressed no interest in this content. It also enabled dozens of adults to find, contact, and press children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos.
The platforms recommended that children join unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex and allowed users to find, share and sell a large volume of child pornography.
Additionally, they permitted a fictitious mother to offer her 13-year-old daughter for sale to sex traffickers and to create a professional page to allow her daughter to share revenue from advertising.
“Mr. Zuckerberg and other Meta executives are aware of the serious harm their products can pose to young users, and yet they have failed to make sufficient changes to their platforms that would prevent the sexual exploitation of children,” Torrez said.
“Despite repeated assurances to Congress and the public that they can be trusted to police themselves, it is clear that Meta’s executives continue to prioritize engagement and ad revenue over the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society,” he continued.
The complaint alleges that Meta fails to remove Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across its platforms and enables adults to find, contact, and solicit underage users to produce illicit pornographic imagery and participate in commercial sex. It also details how Zuckerberg’s company harms children and teenagers through the addictive design of its platform, which allegedly degrades users’ mental health, sense of self-worth, and physical safety.
The AG claims that certain child exploitative content is more than 10 times more prevalent on Facebook and Instagram than on Pornhub and the porn subscription site OnlyFans. Torrez’s office omitted many images its investigators found on Meta’s platforms from the complaint, as they were considered too graphic and disturbing.
The AG’s office is encouraging parents and children who have grappled with sexual exploitation enabled by social media platforms, as well as those who have experienced addiction, depression, eating disorders or other self-harm or mental health issues because of their use of social media, to come forward and share their experiences with his office.
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