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Meta Knowingly Designed Platforms to Hook Kids, Court Doc Claims

Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, intentionally designed its social platforms to engage and captivate children, concealing the fact that it had received millions of complaints about underage users on Instagram. Despite the substantial number of complaints, Meta only deactivated a small fraction of the reported accounts. This information comes from a recently unsealed legal complaint, originally made public in a redacted form, which marked the commencement of a lawsuit filed in late October by the attorneys general of 33 states.

The legal filing cites company documents revealing Meta officials acknowledging the deliberate exploitation of youthful psychology, including impulsive behavior, susceptibility to peer pressure, and a tendency to underestimate risks, in the design of their products. Additionally, some officials admitted that Facebook and Instagram were popular among children under the age of 13, a violation of company policy that prohibits their use.

In response to the allegations, Meta issued a statement to The Associated Press, asserting that the complaint misrepresents its decade-long efforts to enhance the safety of the online experience for teenagers. The company claimed to have developed over 30 tools to support teenagers and their parents. Regarding the restriction of younger users, Meta argued that age verification poses a “complex industry challenge” and advocated for transferring the responsibility of monitoring underage usage to app stores and parents. Specifically, Meta expressed support for federal legislation mandating app stores to obtain parental approval for users under 16.

A Facebook safety executive hinted in a 2019 email that stringent measures against younger users might negatively impact the company’s business, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. However, a year later, the same executive expressed frustration with Facebook’s lack of enthusiasm in identifying and removing younger children from its platforms, despite actively studying the usage patterns of underage users for business purposes.

The legal complaint highlighted that Meta sometimes faces a backlog of up to 2.5 million accounts of younger children awaiting action, underscoring the scale of the issue, as reported by various newspapers.

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