Meta ‘knowingly designed its platforms to hook children’, court document claims

27 November 2023, 08:34

Young boy using a computer
Young boy doing his homework on a computer. Picture: PA

The complaint emerged in an unsealed legal document seen by two US newspapers.

Facebook parent Meta Platforms deliberately engineered its social platforms to hook minors and knew – but never disclosed – it had received millions of complaints about under-age users on Instagram but only disabled a fraction of those accounts, according to reports.

The complaint emerged in a newly unsealed legal document, described in reports by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The complaint, originally made public in redacted form, was the opening salvo in a lawsuit filed in late October by the attorneys general of 33 US states.

Company documents cited in the complaint described several Meta officials acknowledging the company designed its products to exploit shortcomings in youthful psychology such as impulsive behaviour, susceptibility to peer pressure and the underestimation of risks, according to the reports.

Others acknowledged Facebook and Instagram also were popular with children under the age of 13 who, per company policy, were not allowed to use the service.

Facebook
Company policy is for under-age children not to have access to the service (AP)

Meta said in a statement to The Associated Press that the complaint misrepresents its work over the past decade to make the online experience safe for teenagers, noting it has “over 30 tools to support them and their parents”.

With respect to barring younger users from the service, Meta argued age verification is a “complex industry challenge”.

Instead, Meta said it favours shifting the burden of policing under-age usage to app stores and parents, specifically by supporting federal legislation that would require app stores to obtain parental approval whenever youths under 16 download apps.

One Facebook safety executive alluded to the possibility that cracking down on younger users might hurt the company’s business in a 2019 email, according to the Journal report.

But a year later, the same executive expressed frustration that while Facebook readily studied the usage of under-age users for business reasons, it did not show the same enthusiasm for ways to identify younger children and remove them from its platforms, the Journal reported.

The complaint noted that at times Meta has a backlog of up to 2.5 million accounts of youngsters awaiting action, according to the newspaper reports.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

The Spanish Civil Guard said Jay Slater, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, could have fallen in a steep and inaccessible area

Jay Slater's best friend Lucy Law pays heartbreaking tribute to 'happiest' person after his ‘deteriorated’ body found

A 25-year-old Brit is missing in Sardinia

Urgent hunt for missing Brit, 25, in Sardinia as desperate mum issues plea after he 'undressed and vanished'

Exclusive
Labour Treasury Secretary says he 'doesn't know' what JD Vance meant when he joked the UK could be 'first Islamist country to have nuclear weapons'

Treasury Sec 'doesn't know' what JD Vance meant by joke UK could be 'first Islamist country to have nuclear weapons'

Lord Robertson will lead the defence review

UK must be ready to confront 'deadly quartet' of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, warns defence review chief

Corey Comperatore was killed during the Trump rally attack.

Chilling final tweets from man killed in Trump shooting at Pennsylvania rally

Donal Trump made his first appearance since the shooting

Donald Trump greeted by cheering fans as he returns to political stage with huge bandage after assassination attempt

JD Vance joked UK could become 'Islamist' under Labour

Trump's vice-president pick JD Vance joked UK could be 'first Islamist country to have nuclear weapons' under Labour

Live
The remains were found near Jay Slater's holiday rental

Live updates: Body found in Jay Slater hunt - Police recover young man's remains from village cliffside

Jay Slater Tenerife timeline: Hunt for missing British teen Jay Slater enters fifth day - here's what we know

Timeline of Jay Slater's disappearance: Everything we know as remains are found 29 days after he went missing

'Terrible shot': Trump gunman Thomas Matthew Crooks

Would-be Trump assassin tried to join school shooting club but was rejected for being a ‘comically bad’ shot

King Charles has sent a private letter to Donald Trump after he was shot in the ear

King Charles sends private message of support to Donald Trump after former president survives assassination attempt

Ian Cameron, 74, was discovered at his German home on Friday evening

British former head designer at Rolls-Royce, 74, found 'stabbed to death on his doorstep'

'I’m supposed to be dead’: Trump breaks silence following assassination bid

'I’m supposed to be dead’: Donald Trump breaks silence following assassination bid

King Charles and Queen Camilla will not visit New Zealand during whistle-stop tour of Australia and Samoa

King Charles and Queen Camilla will not visit New Zealand during whistle-stop tour of Australia and Samoa

President Joe Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

'We're not enemies': Biden calls for unity after Trump assassination attempt as he delivers rare speech from Oval Office

Corey Comperatore was killed during the Trump rally attack.

Pictured: Man killed in shooting at Trump rally as he 'tried to shield family from bullets'