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Facebook and Instagram used ‘aggressive tactics’ targeting children, lawsuit claims


Meta knowingly used “aggressive tactics” involving hooking children to social media “in the name of growth,” according to a lawsuit against Meta that claims children have suffered at the hands of Facebook and Instagram.

A Meta software engineer said it was “no secret” how Facebook and Instagram used meticulous algorithms to promote repetitive and compulsive use among minors, regardless of whether the content was harmful, and “made no apology for it.”

The redacted disclosures were disclosed in a lawsuit against Meta, but have been disclosed and obtained by DailyMail.com.

Despite CEO March Zuckerberg saying publicly that claims that his company prioritizes profit over safety and well-being are simply ‘not true,’ the files show child sexual exploitation on both platforms and allege that ‘the algorithm based on Meta engagement exploited extreme content to generate more engagement’. the document says.

The document states that 20 percent of users ages nine to 13 on Facebook and Instagram have had a sexual experience with an adult on the sites.

This is despite Meta’s ‘zero tolerance policies that prohibit abuses such as child exploitation’.

DailyMail.com has obtained a redacted version of a lawsuit against Meta, brought by parents who say children have suffered at the hands of their platforms.

DailyMail.com has contacted Meta, which did not comment on specific questions.

A spokesman for the plaintiffs’ main court-appointed lawyer told DailyMail.com: “These never-before-seen documents show that social media companies are treating the youth mental health crisis as a public relations issue rather than of an urgent social problem provoked”. for their products.

“This includes burying internal research documenting this harm, blocking security measures because they decrease ‘engagement,’ and defunding teams focused on protecting youth mental health.”

The lawsuit, filed in California on February 14, cites that more than a third of children ages 13 to 17 report using one of the Defendants’ apps “almost constantly” and admit that this is “too much,” claim the parents involved with lawsuit

The allegations, later consolidated into several class action lawsuits, claimed that Meta’s social media platforms were designed to be dangerously addictive, prompting children and adolescents to consume content that increases the risk of sleep disorders, eating disorders, depression, and suicide.

The case also establishes that adolescents and children are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of social media.

The unredacted version was published on March 10.

It claims that Thorn, an international anti-trafficking organization, published a report in 2021 detailing sexual exploitation issues on Facebook and Instagram and “provided this information to Meta.”

Thorn’s report shows that “neither blocking nor reporting (bullies) protects minors from continued bullying” and 55 percent of report participants who blocked or reported someone said they were contacted again online.

And younger children are particularly at risk from predators.

The unsealed complaint also claims that 80 percent of “adult/minor connection violations” on Facebook were due to the platform’s “People You May Know” feature.

.  The files claim that the company was aware of child sexual exploitation on Facebook and Instagram and alleges that

. The files claim that the company was aware of child sexual exploitation on Facebook and Instagram and alleges that “Meta’s engagement-based algorithm exploited extreme content to drive more engagement.”

“An internal study conducted around June 2020 found that 500,000 underage Instagram accounts ‘receive IIC’, which stands for ‘inappropriate interactions with children,’ on a daily basis,” a redacted statement on pages 135 and 136 read. of the document. .

‘However, at the time, ‘Child safety (was) explicitly mentioned as a non-goal. . . . So if we do something here, great. But if we can’t do anything at all, that’s okay too.

Since then, Meta has improved its ability to decrease inappropriate interactions between adults and youth.

The firm has created technology that allows it to find accounts that have displayed potentially suspicious behavior and prevent those accounts from interacting with the accounts of young people.

And Meta claims that it doesn’t show youth accounts to these adults when they scroll through the list of people who have liked a post or when they look at an account’s Followers or Following list.

However, these changes were made after 2020.

The complaint also states that Meta had considered making teen user profiles “private by default” in July 2020, but decided against it after pitting the “security, privacy, and policy gains” against the “impact on growth”.

On page 135 of the lawsuit, a portion of which was redacted, it claims that Meta knew that allowing adults to contact children on Instagram “angers Apple to the point of threatening to remove us from the app store.” when will we stop adults from messaging minors on IG Direct.’

“That remained true even after Meta received reports that a 12-year-old girl solicited on its platform “was (the) daughter of (an) Apple security executive,” the statement continued.

However, Meta moved to make teen user accounts private by default in November 2022.

A Meta spokesperson told DailyMail.com: “The claim that we defund work to support people’s well-being is false.”

The redacted version of the complaint reads: “Instead of ‘taking (this) seriously’ and ‘launching new tools’ to protect children, Meta did the opposite.”

“At the end of 2019, Meta’s ‘mental health team’ stopped doing things,” “was defunded,” and “stopped completely.” And, as noted, Meta allowed security tools that he knew to be broken to be presented as fixes.

A Meta spokesperson told DailyMail.com that because this is one of the company’s top priorities, ‘we actually increased funding, as evidenced by the more than 30 tools we offer to help teens and girls. families. Today, there are hundreds of employees working across the company to create features for this purpose,” he said.

Other ‘shocking’ information in the disclosed complaint reports the existence of Meta’s ‘rabbit hole project’.

“Someone who is feeling bad sees content that makes them feel bad, engages with it, and then their IG is flooded,” the redacted version reads.

‘Meta acknowledges that Instagram users at risk of suicide or self-harm are more likely to ‘encounter more harmful suicide and self-harm content (via explored, related follower suggestions’).

The document cites Molly Russell, a London teenager who committed suicide in 2017.

“Meta had conducted an internal investigation which warned that there was a risk of ‘similar incidents like Molly Russell’ because the product’s algorithmic features were ‘(l)leading users to distressing content,’ the document reads on page 84.

“Our recommendation algorithms will start to push you down a more egregious content rabbit hole.”

They have been clear about possible solutions: Specific changes to the algorithm lead to a “significant drop in exposure” to problematic content.

‘But they have resisted making changes, for the explicit and for-profit reason that such adjustments ‘come with a clear cost of participation’.

The lawsuit claims that Meta’s consistent stance on the importance of children’s safety was never serious and just ‘theatrics.’

‘Our data, as currently displayed, is incorrect. . . . We are sharing bad metrics externally. . . we vouch for these numbers,’ according to an employee shown in the document.

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