Dec 6, 2023 - Technology

New Mexico sues Meta alleging child sexual abuse protection failures

Meta signage in Davos, Switzerland, in May 2023.

Meta signage in Davos, Switzerland, in May 2023. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

New Mexico on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against Meta and CEO Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly failing to protect children from sexual abuse, online solicitation and human trafficking on Facebook and Instagram.

Why it matters: The suit comes just weeks after 33 other states also sued Meta for allegedly knowingly issuing products and features through its apps that pose psychological risks to children and teen users.

  • New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez said on Wednesday his office discovered the alleged failings through an undercover investigation in which it created decoy accounts of users 14-years and younger.

Details: Throughout the investigation, Torrez said that the decoy accounts were served "a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images," even when the account never expressed interest in the content.

  • Dozens of adults were also able to contact and press the decoy children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos.
  • Torrez claimed that Zuckerberg and Meta executives knew their products could harm young users but did not make changes to protect them.
  • "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," Torrez said.

Meta did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

  • Last Friday, the company outlined in a press release how it protects children from exploitation, saying it takes "recent allegations about the effectiveness of our work very seriously"
  • It claimed it has removed 16,000 groups on Facebook since July 2023 for violating its child safety policies. On Instagram, it said it blocked more than 250,000 devices for violating the policies.

The big picture: Similar to that multi-state lawsuit, New Mexico accused Meta of deliberately designing platforms that were addictive to children and teens, whose mental health, sense of self-worth and physical safety were degraded through the use of the company's products.

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