Meta Accused of Purposefully Designing Platforms to Engage Young Users, Reveals US Court Document

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Newly unsealed legal documents reveal that Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, intentionally designed its social platforms to engage and hook children. The documents also suggest that Meta was aware of receiving millions of complaints about underage users on Instagram but only disabled a fraction of those accounts, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The legal complaint, initially made public in redacted form, was the first move in a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of 33 states in late October. Meta responded to the allegations, stating that the complaint misrepresents its decade-long efforts to create a safe online experience for teenagers and denied intentionally designing products to be addictive to younger users.

Reports indicate that Meta officials, as cited in the complaint, acknowledged that the company designed its products to exploit aspects of youthful psychology, including impulsive behavior, susceptibility to peer pressure, and underestimation of risks. Furthermore, the documents mentioned that Facebook and Instagram were popular among children under the age of 13, even though company policy prohibited their use.

According to the reports, a Facebook safety executive in 2019 hinted at the potential negative impact on the company’s business if it cracked down on younger users. However, a year later, the same executive expressed frustration that while Facebook extensively studied the usage of underage users for business reasons, it did not demonstrate the same enthusiasm for identifying and removing younger children from its platforms.

The legal complaint highlights that Meta, at times, has a backlog of up to 2.5 million accounts of younger children awaiting action. Meta has not immediately provided a comment on the unredacted complaint following a request from The Associated Press.

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