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Meta Hit With EU Probe Over Child Safety Concerns

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Facebook parent Meta is facing a major probe from the European Union over potential breaches of its strict online content laws, specifically regarding child safety.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced the investigation on Thursday, May 16.

The agency looks into concerns about whether Meta's Facebook and Instagram platforms may contribute to behavioral addictions in children and create "rabbit-hole effects." 

The commission also worries about the adequacy of age verification processes on Meta’s platforms.

It will also investigate the privacy risks associated with the company's recommendation algorithms.

A Meta spokesperson 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.

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“This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing details of our work with the European Commission.”

The investigation follows a preliminary analysis of a risk assessment report provided by Meta in September 2023. 

Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for the internal market said the regulator is “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.”

The EU plans to conduct an in-depth investigation into Meta’s child protection measures as a priority. 

“This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing details of our work with the European Commission”

This process will involve gathering evidence through requests for information, interviews, and inspections. 

The initiation of a DSA probe enables the EU to take further enforcement steps, including interim measures and non-compliance decisions. 

The commission may also consider commitments made by Meta to address its concerns.

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Since introducing the DSA, a groundbreaking law to tackle harmful content, Meta and other US tech giants have faced increased scrutiny from the EU. 

The DSA allows fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s global annual revenues for violations, though no fines have been issued under the new law yet.

Meta is also under investigation in the US. 

The attorney general of New Mexico is suing the company over allegations Facebook and Instagram enabled child sexual abuse, solicitation, and trafficking. 

A Meta spokesperson previously said the company uses “sophisticated technology” and other preventive measures to combat these issues.

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