EU investigating Meta over addictive effects of Facebook, Instagram on children

The European Union is investigating Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, over the potentially addictive effects of its platforms on children. 

The bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, opened “formal proceedings” against the tech giant Thursday to investigate whether it violated the Digital Services Act’s (DSA) protections for minors. 

The commission noted in a press release that the design of Facebook and Instagram “may exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behaviour.” 

It is also investigating age-verification tools employed by Meta that “may not be reasonable, proportionate and effective,” as well as its efforts to “ensure a high level of privacy, safety and security for minors.” 

“We are not convinced that [Meta] has done enough to comply with the DSA obligations to mitigate the risks of negative effects to the physical and mental health of young Europeans on its platforms Facebook and Instagram,” European Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a statement. 

“We will now investigate in-depth the potential addictive and ‘rabbit hole’ effects of the platforms, the effectiveness of their age verification tools, and the level of privacy afforded to minors in the functioning of recommender systems,” he added. “We are sparing no effort to protect our children.” 

Meta was already under investigation by the European Commission over potential DSA violations related to deceptive advertising and political content. 

The tech giant emphasized in a statement that it has spent “a decade developing more than 50 tools, features and resources” to protect young people. 

“This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, which is why we’re continuing to advance industry-wide solutions to age-assurance that are applied to all apps teens access,” a Meta spokesperson said. “We look forward to sharing details of our work with the European Commission.” 

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