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The Tech Oversight Project Issues Statement on Lawsuit Against Meta, Demands Passage of New Mexico Kids Code

Dec 06, 2023

Torrez Claims Instagram, Facebook Facilitate Child Harassment, Exploitation & Trafficking in New Mexico – Lawsuit Allegations Reported in Wall Street Journal

Learn more about the New Mexico Kids Code here

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, The Tech Oversight Project issued the following statement applauding New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez for suing Meta for sexual harassment, exploitation, and trafficking of minors on its platforms. The organization also called for swift passage of the New Mexico Kids Code. Attorney General Torrez’s filing contains explosive allegations against Meta alleging gross violations of children’s safety and privacy. 

“The Attorney General’s disturbing findings underscore the urgent need for New Mexico legislators to pass Age-Appropriate Design Code legislation to protect young people from predatory dangers online,” said Marjorie K. Connolly, Communications Director at The Tech Oversight Project. “Companies like Meta have known for years that they endanger kids, exposing them to unwanted sexual contact, and even making it harder for kids to report sexual harassment. The findings are sickening and prove that in New Mexico, we need to act now by passing safety-by-design and privacy-by-default protections that keep young people safe.”

About the Lawsuit

Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s office charges that Meta platforms including Instagram and Facebook endangered children in New Mexico by:

Promoting Inappropriate Content:

  • Proactively serving underage users a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images — even when the child has expressed no interest (AG, WSJ).
  • Allowing Facebook and Instagram users to find, share, and sell an enormous volume of child pornography (AG).
  • Routinely declaring that the images reported as inappropriate were acceptable, including images of nude underage girls (WSJ).

Facilitating Dangerous Interactions:

  • Allowing dozens of adults to find, contact, and pressure children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participating in pornographic videos (AG).
  • Allowing underage accounts to be “inundated with explicit messages and sexual propositions from other users” (WSJ).
  • Refusing to take action despite “numerous recent criminal cases in New Mexico in which predators have used Facebook and Instagram to groom children, with one perpetrator alone accused of recruiting more than 100 underage victims via Facebook” (WSJ).

Encouraging Sex Trafficking:

  • Recommending that the children join unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex (AG).
  • Allowing a fictitious mother to offer her 13-year-old daughter for sale to sex traffickers and create a professional page to allow her daughter to share revenue from advertising (AG).

How Kids Code Legislation Would Help

New Mexico’s legislation, which will be reintroduced in a revised form this January, is based on the UK’s Age Appropriate Design Code, a law that has already prompted Silicon Valley’s largest companies to innovate in the interest of protecting the UK’s children. For example, Instagram and TikTok have disabled direct messages between children and adult strangers and Google has turned on SafeSearch by default for users under 18.

Other ways the forthcoming legislation could protect children’s digital safety include restricting companies from unnecessary geo-location tracking and mandating default privacy settings to “high” for users under 18 years old.

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