Docs Show Meta Aimed to Hook Kids

( – Facebook parent company Meta has been nailed in a freshly unsealed legal complaint for deliberately tweaking its algorithm to be more addictive to children as well as allowing underage users to maintain a presence on the platform despite having a minimum age requirement of 13 in its terms of service.

The complaint was originally discussed in reports by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal in its redacted form but has since been made completely public. The authors are the attorneys general of 41 U.S. states and the District of Columbia who are suing Meta Platforms for exploiting the innate psychology of children to make their products more addictive.

They cite susceptibility to peer pressure, poor impulse control, and inaccurate risk assessment as a handful of the exploits used by Meta engineers behind Facebook and Instagram.

Meta complained that age verification for minor users remains a “complex industry challenge.” They want Congress to pass new laws that require users under the age of 16 to have their parents’ approval to download cell phone applications.

A 2019 email from a Facebook safety exec showed that they were concerned that cracking down on underage users could negatively impact their bottom line and advertising revenue. A Dec 2017 email suggested an Instagram employee had then discovered a way to identify young children using the app but called it a “Pandora’s box” best left unopened.

The complaint claims that Meta has over 2 million accounts tagged as “under-13” which are still on the platform.

Other emails shared in the complaint show that Meta execs knew in 2021 that the app wasn’t designed for young kids whose cognitive and social development is vastly immature when compared to older teens and adults.

The complaint also pointed out that instead of removing underage accounts Meta instead creating internal graphic representations bragging about the numbers and successful “penetration” into the 11 and 12-year-old age brackets. The company is uncertain about whether or not they prefer eliminating the accounts or using them for marketing research.

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