Press Releases

The Tech Oversight Project Blasts Meta As New Mexico Attorney General Reveals New Smoking-Gun Evidence of Child Safety Violations

Jan 18, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Sacha Haworth, Executive Director of The Tech Oversight Project, released the following statement after new smoking-gun evidence about Meta’s knowing violations of child safety was unredacted from New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez’s lawsuit and reported by AP:

“How many more smoking guns do we need to see from Big Tech before lawmakers take action? Internal communications from Meta make it clear: these companies are going to keep committing deliberate child safety violations just as long as they can continue raking in billions in profits off kids. Meta has violated the public trust to a shocking degree, committing calculated harms to child well-being that leaves no option but immediate public accountability. This new evidence shows why legislatures in Attorney General Torrez’s home state of New Mexico and in states across the country need to act urgently on Kids Code legislation to protect innocent kids from predatory companies like Meta and why federal lawmakers should pass the Kids Online Safety Act to hold these companies accountable for their reprehensible actions.”

New Details from New Mexico’s Lawsuit Against Meta

“Internal employee messages and presentations from 2020 and 2021 show Meta was aware of issues such as adult strangers being able to contact children on Instagram, the sexualization of minors on that platform, and the dangers of its ‘people you may know’ feature that recommends connections between adults and children.” (AP, 1/17/24)

“According to the complaint, Meta ‘knew that adults soliciting minors was a problem on the platform.’” (AP, 1/17/24)

“In a July 2020 document titled ‘Child Safety — State of Play (7/20),’ Meta listed ‘immediate product vulnerabilities” that could harm children, including the difficulty reporting disappearing videos and confirmed that safeguards available on Facebook were not always present on Instagram.’ (AP, 1/17/24)

“In a July 2020 internal chat … one employee asked, ‘What specifically are we doing for child grooming (something I just heard about that is happening a lot on TikTok)?’ The response from another employee was, ‘Somewhere between zero and negligible.’” (AP, 1/17/24)

Background on New Mexico’s Lawsuit Against Meta

Joining over 40 state Attorneys General in suing Meta and providing additional details as the result of an independent investigation, Attorney General Raúl Torrez’s office has charged that Meta platforms including Instagram and Facebook endanger children 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, 12/26/23).
  • 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, 12/26/23).

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, 12/26/23).
  • 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, 12/26/23).

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).

Big Tech Profits Billions off Kids

“Social media companies collectively made over $11 billion in U.S. advertising revenue from minors last year, according to a study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.” (AP, 12/27/23)

“‘Although social media platforms may claim that they can self-regulate their practices to reduce the harms to young people, they have yet to do so, and our study suggests they have overwhelming financial incentives to continue to delay taking meaningful steps to protect children,’ said Bryn Austin, a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard and a senior author on the study.” (AP, 12/27/23)


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