EU launched a formal probe into Meta over child protection


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The European Commission has taken a significant step by initiating a formal investigation into Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, over concerns related to child protection and addictive behaviour on their platforms. This investigation, under the Digital Services Act (DSA), aims to evaluate Meta’s compliance with regulations and measures to safeguard children online and prevent potential harm caused by addictive algorithms. Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for Internal Market, expressed doubts about Meta’s efforts to fulfil its obligations under the DSA, particularly in reducing the risks faced by young people in Europe while using Facebook and Instagram. Thierry said

“The European Commission is concerned that Facebook and Instagram’s systems, including their algorithms, may stimulate addictive online behaviour in children and create a ‘rabbit hole’ effect,”

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Concerns Over Addictive Algorithms and Child Protection

The European Commission’s investigation focuses on several key aspects to ensure the safety and well-being of minors on social media platforms. One major concern is the potentially addictive nature of Facebook and Instagram, with algorithms that may lead to behavioural addiction and the creation of what is termed as a “rabbit hole effect.” This effect draws users into consuming increasingly problematic content. These contents will also potentially impact their mental and emotional health.

Detailed Investigation Areas

Thierry Breton highlighted the specific areas that the EU will delve into during the investigation:

1. Addiction and Rabbit Hole Effect: The inquiry will scrutinize the platforms’ potential to foster addictive behaviour and the mechanisms that may lead users, especially minors, into a continuous loop of consuming content that could be harmful or addictive.

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2. Effectiveness of Age Verification Tools: The investigation will assess the tools and methods employed by Meta to verify the age of users, particularly minors, to ensure that age-appropriate content and safety measures are in place.

3. Privacy and Security for Minors: The EU is keen on evaluating the level of privacy, safety, and security provided to minors while using Facebook and Instagram, especially concerning default privacy settings and the functioning of recommender systems.

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Digital Services Act and Regulatory Measures

The DSA, which came into effect in August 2021, mandates that large online platforms like Meta must adhere to stringent regulations to combat illegal and harmful content on their platforms. Non-compliance with these regulations could result in fines of up to 6% of the company’s global annual turnover, emphasizing the seriousness of ensuring a safe online environment, especially for vulnerable groups like children.

Meta’s Response and Past Controversies

In response to the investigation, Meta has emphasized its decade-long efforts in developing tools and features aimed at protecting young users online and ensuring a safe digital experience. The company has highlighted its age verification methods and commitment to providing a secure environment for minors. Meta claims that it takes child protection seriously. However, the company has faced criticism and legal challenges in the past, including lawsuits over alleged data collection on children without parental consent and concerns about the impact of its platforms on children’s mental health.

Conclusion

The European Commission’s probe into Meta’s platforms, Facebook and Instagram, underscores the growing importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of minors in the digital age. By investigating potential addictive algorithms and evaluating measures for child protection, the EU aims to hold tech companies accountable for creating a secure online environment for all users, especially the most vulnerable ones. This investigation also serves as a significant step towards enforcing regulatory frameworks like the DSA. This will help to mitigate risks and protect young individuals from potential harm in the online space. What do you think about the EU’s latest probe on Meta? Is it a good move to protect kids? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below

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