According to several new reports, the social media company Facebook, now known as “Meta,” deliberately designed its various social media platforms in a way that would get young children addicted to the platforms.
As reported by the Associated Press, the claims against Facebook were made in a recently-unsealed court document that was first reported on by the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The document in question was part of a lawsuit filed against the company by the attorneys general of 33 different states in late October.
The legal complaint says that internal company documents reveal that officials at Meta admitted to their platforms being designed in a way that would take advantage of youthful naivety in underaged children, exploiting their impulsive behavior, peer pressure, and lack of understanding of risks, in order to get them to sign up for their platforms. Meta includes such social media apps as the social networking site Facebook, the picture-sharing website Instagram, and the messaging app WhatsApp.
Other company officials acknowledged that Facebook and Instagram in particular were popular among children under the age of 13, despite the terms of service forbidding children of such an age from joining. The complaint further claims that despite receiving millions of complaints regarding underaged users on Instagram, the company had banned only a small portion of those accounts.
Back in 2019, one safety executive at Facebook expressed concern in an internal email that banning underaged accounts could hurt the company’s business. But the following year, the same executive seemed to be more frustrated with the fact that Facebook was more focused on profit than on prioritizing the safety of the children, having built up a backlog of over 2.5 million underaged accounts that needed to be banned.
In a statement following the initial reports, Facebook claimed that the complaint misrepresents the work that the company has done over the last 10 years to reduce the risks to underaged children on the platform, pointing to the fact that the website has “over 30 tools to support them and their parents.” Facebook has said that it prefers to let parents and app stores do most of the policing when it comes to underaged users.