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New Mexico AG suing Meta over alleged lack of child protections online

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (KVIA) -- New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed a lawsuit against Meta and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly failing to properly protect children from "sexual abuse, solicitation, and human trafficking" online.

The AG's office says its team conducted an undercover investigation into Meta's platforms (mainly Instagram and Facebook). They created decoy accounts posing as children 14 and younger. In the course of the investigation, the AG's office said it found the following evidence that Meta:

  • Proactively served and directed the underage users a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images — even when the child has expressed no interest in this content.
  • Enabled dozens of adults to find, contact, and press children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos.
  • Recommended that the children join unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex.
  • Allowed Facebook and Instagram users to find, share, and sell an enormous volume of child pornography.

The AG also accused Zuckerberg and other Meta executives of being aware of the harm their platforms allegedly cause to children.

“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,” Attorney General Torrez said. “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.”

"The Office’s investigators found that certain child exploitative content is over ten times more prevalent on Facebook and Instagram than it is on Pornhub and OnlyFans," the AG's office explained in a news release Wednesday.

Meta sent ABC-7 the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"Child exploitation is a horrific crime and online predators are determined criminals. We use sophisticated technology, hire child safety experts, report content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and share information and tools with other companies and law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to help root out predators. In one month alone, we disabled more than half a million accounts for violating our child safety policies."

Meta Spokesperson

Meta also pointed to its recent efforts to protect children online. They provided ABC-7 with the following list:

  • "We introduced additional ways to proactively find and remove accounts that may violate our child safety policies. For example, we launched proactive technology to send Instagram accounts exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior to our content reviewers and we automatically disable these accounts if they exhibit a certain number of the 60+ signals we monitor. More than 20,000 accounts were identified and automatically removed in August 2023 as a result of this method."
  • "Improvements in device blocking have led to more than 10,000 additional enforcements on Instagram and Facebook per day since the beginning of August."
  • "Since Aug 1, 2023, we have automatically blocked more than 250,000 devices on Instagram for Child Safety violations."
  • "Since July 1, 2023, we’ve reviewed and removed 16,000 groups that violate our child safety policies."
  • "Since July 1, 2023, we’ve reviewed and removed over 190,000 Groups from Search."
  • "Between 2020 and 2023, our teams disrupted 32 abusive networks and removed over 160,000 accounts associated with those networks."
  • "In August 2023, we disabled more than 500,000 accounts for violating Child Sexual Exploitation policies."
Article Topic Follows: Biz/Tech

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Emma Hoggard

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Jason McNabb

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