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Meta Faces Scrutiny by EU for Child Safety and Mental Health Concerns

by Violet Dawson
0 comment

If the Committee is not satisfied with Meta’s response, it may impose a fine of 6% of its global turnover.

The European Commission has launched an investigation into the owners of Facebook and Instagram, Meta over concerns that the platforms encourage addictive behaviour and harm mental health in children.

An EU official said Meta may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA). The law, a landmark law passed in the EU last summer, targets digital companies large and small for online acts such as disinformation, shopping fraud and child abuse, making them liable for damages.

In a statement, Thierry Berton, the EU Internal Market Commissioner, said that formal proceedings against Meta have begun. “We are not convinced that it 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,” he stated.

The study will investigate its possible addictive effects on platforms where algorithms feed young people with negative content, such as unrealistic body images. The so-called “rabbit hole” effect is being investigated. The investigation will also explore the effectiveness of Meta’s age verification tools and their privacy protections for minors. “We are sparing no effort to protect our children,” Breton said.

A spokesperson for Meta said: “We want young people to have safe, age-appropriate experiences online and have spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies designed to protect them. This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing details of our work with the European Commission.”

Last month, the European Commission said Meta had not so far taken sufficient steps to combat Russian disinformation before the EU elections in June. Amid these concerns, an investigation has been launched under the DSA into Meta’s handling of political content.

Under the DSA, platforms have a duty to protect the privacy and safety of children. After a preliminary investigation, EU officials are concerned that Facebook and Instagram “may exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behaviour”.

There is also scepticism regarding the platform’s age verification tools. To open an account on Facebook or Instagram, a user must be at least 13 years old.

One official said that it was clearly very easy to circumvent some of the regulations, and the Commission was unable to determine how Meta could conclude that these measures could be effective and appropriate.

EU officials said on Thursday that the European Commission wants to use the EU’s digital ID exchange for age verification. The wallet, which is still in the testing phase, aims to make it easier for members in the 27 countries to prove their identity, whether it is enrolling in a university, opening a bank account or applying for a job.

The commission also opened two investigations into TikTok, which led the Chinese video-sharing platform to voluntarily withdraw its TikTok Lite benefit service in France and Spain last month.

This follows the commencement of his DSA proceedings against X for alleged hate speech and against online trading site AliExpress for advertising transparency and complaint handling.

The most recent Meta examination is comparative to the TikTok case as both are analyzing the possibly addictive nature of online platforms. Breton has already said that the TikTok Lite benefit may as well be “as toxic and addictive as cigarettes”.

The DSA came into force in February for platforms operating in Europe and aims to hold online security responsibility on power online platforms that are “too big to care”.

If the Committee is not satisfied with Meta’s response, it may impose a fine of 6% of its global turnover. Furthermore, they can conduct on-site inspections and interview company executives without setting public deadlines for completing the investigation.

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