US attorneys have filed legal action against Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, alleging that it allows children under 13 to use the platform without parental consent.
According to the complaint, Meta has been inundated with more than 1.1 million reports since the beginning of 2019 regarding the presence of Instagram accounts belonging to users who are younger than 13 years old. However, only a fraction of those accounts have been disabled, and the platform even regularly gathers personal information about children without their consent, including their locations and email addresses, in violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
The plaintiffs claimed in their complaint that Meta “has consistently failed to make the development of effective age verification systems a priority, and instead has enabled users under the age of 13 to lie about their age to create accounts on Instagram.”
The prosecution also brought up the fact that, despite knowing there were millions of underage Instagram users, Meta executives had testified in Congress openly about how successful their age verification process was and how they promptly deleted any underage accounts they discovered.
In response, Meta issued a statement stating that this complaint “mischaracterizes our work by using selective quotes and carefully selected documents,” adding that the company has been “working to make the experience of using its online platforms safe and appropriate for all teens” for the past ten years.
These accusations are part of a broader federal lawsuit against Meta that was filed last month in a Californian court by over 40 US states. The lawsuit claims that Meta’s applications, Facebook and Instagram, are damaging “the mental and physical health of young people.”
If proved accurate, Meta might face hefty fines in addition to modifications to the company’s online privacy protection guidelines.