New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez has filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, accusing them of failing to adequately protect young users from sexual predators.
The lawsuit, filed in state court, alleges that Meta has not taken sufficient steps to safeguard children on its platforms despite repeated warnings and evidence.
BREAKING: New Mexico Attorney General @_Raul_Torrez has filed a lawsuit against the largest social media company in the world and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to protect children from sexual abuse, online solicitation and human trafficking. https://t.co/6KlygKIt1L
— Daniel Chacon (@danieljchacon) December 6, 2023
Torrez highlighted the disturbing findings from an investigation conducted by his office, where fake accounts set up by state investigators received unsolicited explicit images and messages. He stated, “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.”
Meta’s Algorithms Under Scrutiny
The lawsuit takes a critical stance on Meta’s use of algorithms, arguing that the company’s software recommendations contribute to the spread of sexually exploitative materials. “Meta’s algorithms operate to ‘search and disseminate’ sexually exploitative and explicit materials,” Torrez asserted. This approach challenges the conventional legal shield that protects companies from liability for user-generated content, suggesting that Meta plays a more active role in content circulation.
The lawsuit personally names Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, accusing him of making public promises about child safety while internally opposing necessary changes.
“He promised publicly that he directed that Meta safeguard children, but privately demanded and delivered the opposite,” the legal filing alleges.
Meta’s Response and Efforts
Responding to the allegations, Meta emphasized its commitment to combating child exploitation. “Child exploitation is a horrific crime, and online predators are determined criminals,” a company spokesperson stated. Meta has highlighted its use of sophisticated technology, collaboration with child safety experts, and reporting offensive content to relevant authorities as part of its efforts to root out predators.
This lawsuit adds to the mounting legal pressure Meta faces in the United States regarding its treatment of young users. Several states have accused the company of contributing to a youth mental health crisis, and hundreds of families have initiated legal action, claiming that the platforms are harmful by design. Moreover, in the European Union, regulators have demanded detailed information on measures taken by Meta to protect children from abuse.
Meta’s Proactive Measures
In response to growing concerns, Meta established a task force in June to address child exploitation on its platforms. The company asserts that it has expanded the number of terms it monitors and developed new technologies to identify predators. These steps are part of Meta’s ongoing effort to enhance platform safety.
The New Mexico lawsuit against Meta represents a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over digital safety and the responsibilities of social media giants. It highlights the complexities and challenges companies like Meta face in creating a safe online environment, especially for younger users. The case also highlights the increasing scrutiny from legal authorities and the public regarding the role of technology companies in protecting their users from online harm.
This legal battle will likely set a precedent for how social media companies are expected to manage user safety, particularly for vulnerable populations like children. The outcome of this case could lead to more stringent regulations and a reevaluation of the legal frameworks governing online platforms and user-generated content.