The attorney general’s office had earlier investigated Meta’s social media products, finding it easy for accounts registered to underage children to both access sexually explicit content and to be contacted by unrelated older adults.
New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez has filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, of creating a “breeding ground” for child predators.
According to CNN, the complaint asserts that Meta knowingly exposes underage users to highly sexualized content, making it easier for adults to contact them.
“Meta’s business model of profit over child safety and business practices of misrepresenting the amount of dangerous material and conduct to which its platforms expose children violates New Mexico law,” the lawsuit states. “Meta should be held accountable for the harm it has inflicted on New Mexico’s children.”
The lawsuit, which names Meta C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg as a co-defendant, notes that “certain child exploitative content” is “about ten times “more prevalent” on Facebook and Instagram compared to actual pornography websites, including Pornhub and OnlyFans.
Torrez alleges that Meta has failed to take meaningful action to protect its young users, despite knowing that child predation isa a common source of concern.
“Mr. Zuckerberg and other Meta executives are aware of the serious harm their products can pose to young users, and yet they have failed to make sufficient changes to their platforms that would prevent the sexual exploitation of children,” Torrez said in a statement.
Meta has since denied the attorney general’s claims, saying that it has pioneered and enacted multiple safety measures.
“We use sophisticated technology, hire child safety experts, report content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and share information and tools with other companies and law enforcement, include state attorneys general, to help root out predators,” said Meta spokesperson Nkechi Nneji, who emphasized that Meta platforms have removed hundreds of thousands of accounts for violating child safety policies.
However, New Mexico’s lawsuit suggests that the state actively tested Meta’s defenses. During the course of its initial investigation into the company, the attorney general’s office created Instagram accounts registered to minors as young as 12 years old. These accounts were able to regularly search for and access explicit “sexual or self-harm content,” including what the complaint characterizes as “soft-core pornography.”
Torrez’s office found that some of Meta’s child safety practices seem to have been inconsistent. Some underage accounts were prevented from searching for pornographic materials on Facebook, but faced far fewer restrictions on Instagram.
Furthermore, when photographs of underage girls were posted on Instagram, they purportedly produced “a stream of comments from accounts of adult males, often with requests that the girls contact them or send pictures.”
“After viewing accounts that showed sexually suggestive pictures of girls, Instagram’s algorithms directed investigators to other accounts with images of sexual intercourse and sexualized images of minors,” the lawsuit says.
Investigators also said that it appears easy for child predators to find and disseminate sexualized content involving children.
“An Instagram search for Lolita, with literary roots connoting a relationship between an adult male and a teenage girl, produced an Instagram warning flagging content related to potential child sexual abuse,” the complaint states. “However, the algorithm also suggested alternative terms like “lolitta girls,” which yielded content without a warning.”
The lawsuit is seeking civil penalties, policy changes, and fines of $5,000 for each alleged violation of New Mexico’s Unfair Practices Act, as well as a court order directing Meta from “engaging in unfair, unconscionable, or deceptive practices.”