Facebook and Instagram targeted by European Union investigation over protection of minors

Facebook and Instagram targeted by European Union investigation over protection of minors
Facebook and Instagram targeted by European Union investigation over protection of minors

On Thursday May 16, the European Commission opened an investigation targeting Facebook and Instagram (Meta group), suspected of developing addictive behavior in children and failing to comply with age verification obligations. “We are not convinced that Meta has done enough to mitigate the risks to the physical and mental health of young Europeans on its platforms”declared the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, quoted in a press release.

This is the sixth formal investigation launched by the Commission, and the second targeting Meta, under the EU’s Digital Services Regulation, new legislation that came into force last year to combat illegal content online. The American group had already been warned in November about the protection of minors, but its responses to formal requests from Brussels were not considered reassuring.

Opening an investigation “do not prejudge its outcome”, underlines the Commission. The procedure will allow the European executive to continue to accumulate evidence and put pressure on Meta for improvements. Brussels is particularly concerned “risks caused by the design of Facebook and Instagram interfaces, which can exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behavior”. She considers the efforts of the platforms to be insufficient “prevent minors from accessing inappropriate content, including age verification tools used by Meta”.

Heavy fines

The digital services regulation has applied since the end of August to the most powerful online platforms like X or TikTok, as well as to the main services of Meta (Facebook, Instagram), Apple, Google, Microsoft or from Amazon. In total, twenty-three very large Internet players, including three pornographic sites (Pornhub, Stripchat and XVideos), were placed under the direct supervision of the European Commission, which recruited more than a hundred experts in Brussels to assume its new role as digital policeman.

Violators face fines of up to 6% of their annual global turnover, or even a ban on operating in Europe in the event of serious and repeated violations. The Commission had already opened an investigation at the end of April against Facebook and Instagram, accused of not fighting sufficiently against disinformation. She also opened two investigations targeting TikTok, one of which pushed this subsidiary of Chinese ByteDance to suspend a controversial function which rewarded users for time spent in front of screens and was suspected of causing addiction among adolescents.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers “Where is the mental health of children and adolescents who are users of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp? »

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The World with AFP

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