New Mexico sues Meta, CEO Zuckerberg over child protection failures


FILE PHOTO: The logo of Meta Platforms' business group is seen in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez on Wednesday said the state sued Facebook and Instagram parent Meta Platforms and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying the social media company had failed to protect children from sexual abuse, online solicitation, and human trafficking.

"Our investigation into Meta’s social media platforms demonstrates that they are not safe spaces for children but rather prime locations for predators to trade child pornography and solicit minors for sex,” Torrez said in a statement.

He said Meta had enabled "dozens of adults to find, contact, and press children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos."

Meta in response said it uses sophisticated technology, hires child safety experts, reports content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and shares "information and tools with other companies and law enforcement, including state attorneys general, to help root out predators."

In August alone, Meta said it disabled more than 500,000 accounts for violating child sexual exploitation policies.

Torrez said 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."

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen on Tuesday announced the state was suing Meta, saying Instagram was "intentionally designed to be addictive, particularly to minors."

In October, more than 40 U.S. states sued Meta, accusing it of fueling a youth mental health crisis by making their social media platforms addictive.

The attorneys general of 33 states including California and New York said Meta repeatedly misled the public about the dangers of its platforms, and knowingly induced young children and teenagers into addictive and compulsive social media use. Eight other U.S. states and Washington, D.C. filed similar lawsuits.

The cases are the latest in a string of legal actions against social media companies on behalf of children and teens.

Meta, ByteDance's TikTok and Alphabet's YouTube already face hundreds of lawsuits filed on behalf of children and school districts about the addictiveness of social media.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senators Ed Markey and Bill Cassidy said Meta was intentionally evading a children privacy law and called on the company to halt the practice.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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