According to reports from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, a recently unsealed legal complaint reveals that Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, intentionally designed its social media platforms to attract young users and was aware of millions of complaints regarding underage users on Instagram. However, the company only deactivated a small portion of these accounts and did not disclose this information.
The accusation, which was initially released in a censored version, was the first attack in a legal case brought forth by the attorney generals of 33 states in late October.
The documents from the company mentioned in the complaint revealed that several Meta employees admitted to intentionally creating products that take advantage of vulnerabilities in young people’s psychology, such as impulsive actions, susceptibility to peer influence, and underestimation of risks.
Some individuals recognized that Facebook and Instagram were also well-liked by kids under 13 years old, even though they were not permitted to use the platforms according to company rules.
According to a statement from Meta to The Associated Press, the complaint inaccurately portrays their efforts over the last ten years in creating a safe online experience for teenagers. They stated that they have developed over 30 tools to assist both teens and their parents.
Meta stated that age verification is a challenging issue in the industry when it comes to preventing younger users from accessing the service.
Meta has expressed a preference for transferring the responsibility of monitoring underage usage to app stores and parents. This would involve supporting a federal law that mandates app stores to obtain parental consent for any app downloads by individuals under 16 years old.
According to a report by the Journal, a Facebook safety executive hinted that enforcing stricter policies on younger users could potentially harm the company’s business in a 2019 email.
According to the Journal, a year later, the executive expressed annoyance that although Facebook closely examined the activity of users under the age of 18 for business purposes, it did not exhibit the same level of eagerness in finding ways to identify and remove younger children from its platforms.
The complaint stated that Meta sometimes has a backlog of 2.5 million accounts belonging to children under the age of 18 that are waiting to be addressed, as reported by newspapers.