Meta knowingly designed its platforms to hook kids, claims US States’ lawsuit

Meta, the parent company of Instagram, was aware of hundreds of thousands of complaints about underage users on the platform but chose not to disclose this information and acted only on fractions of the complaints, claimed a legal complaint, The New York Times reported .

Facebook and Instagram parent Meta(AP)

The complaint, initially released in a redacted form, marked the beginning of a lawsuit filed in late October by the attorneys general of 33 states.

The company documents mentioned in the complaint revealed that several Meta officials admitted to engineering products that exploit vulnerabilities in young users and keeping them hooked to the platform.

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 teens, noting it has “over 30 tools to support them and their parents.”

What is Meta underage users policy?

According to its website, if there are indications that a Meta account belongs to someone under 13, the company will request the account owner’s date of birth.

If the age is under 10, the account will be deleted, as users under 10 aren’t permitted to have a Meta account or use Meta Quest headsets and apps, the age-related policy of the platform says.

If the age is between 10 and 12, the account must be converted to a child’s Meta account, managed by a parent or guardian, it adds.

However, the complaint noted that at times Meta has a backlog of up to 25 lakh accounts of younger children awaiting action, according to the newspaper report.

Meta contends that age verification poses a “complex industry challenge.” Instead, Meta advocates transferring the responsibility of monitoring underage usage to app stores and parents.

Child users in India

In a 2021 report, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, a body under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, revealed in that despite Meta’s mandate for users to be at least 13, its platforms—Facebook and Instagram—had a significant number of users around 10 years old.

The report disclosed that almost one in four 10-year-old internet users in the country had an Instagram account, prompting a call for regulations on social media access for underage users.

Instagram last year introduced Parental Supervision Controls and Family Centre, allowing parents to be more involved in their children’s app experiences.

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