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EU probes Meta over child protection concerns

May 16, 2024

The European Commission has opened a formal investigation into the parent company of social media sites Facebook and Instagram over concerns that the platforms may "stimulate behavioral addiction" in children.

Instagram app, photo, with a plethora of notifications
The EU will look at whether Instagram, seen here, and Facebook are complying with the bloc's law regulating online platformsImage: Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto/picture alliance

European Union regulators have opened a formal investigation into Facebook and Instagram over child protection concerns, the European Commission said on Thursday.

The Commission said in a statementthat systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including the algorithms, may "exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behaviour."

It also noted concerns over so-called "rabbit-hole" effect which it said "draw you in to more and more disturbing content," according to the statement.

The bloc is also looking into potential privacy concerns and also minors' potential access to inappropriate content.

The European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said the bloc was not convinced Meta had done enough to comply with the bloc's Digital Services Act (DSA).

Both Instagram and Facebook are designated as very large online platforms (VLOPs) under the act, meaning they have to comply with the most stringent DSA rules or potentially risk sanctions.

Regulators said the assessment of Meta's two social networks is required to counter "potential risks for the exercise of the fundamental right to the physical and mental well-being of children as well as to the respect of their rights."

SHIFT – Living in the Digital Age

EU investigates Meta's compliance with DSA

The DSA went into force in August last year.

Regulators will assess whether Meta has complied with DSA obligation to ensure a "high level of privacy, safety and security for minors, particularly with regard to default privacy settings for minors as part of the design and functioning of their recommender systems."

Meta could face fines up to 6% of its global revenue if it is found to have broken the rules.

Meta is already subject to another DSA investigation, also in relation to Facebook and Instagram, on deceptive advertising and political content ahead of European Parliament elections in June.

rm/ab (AFP, dpa)