Category Archives: Meta

EU Launches Probe Into Meta Over Social Media Addiction In Children



Brussels has opened an in-depth probe into Meta over concerns it is failing to do enough to protect children from becoming addicted to social media platforms such as Instagram, Financial Times reported.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced on Thursday it would look into whether the Silicon Valley giant’s apps were reinforcing “rabbit hole” effects, where the users get drawn ever deeper into online feeds and topics.

EU investigators will also look into whether Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is complying with legal obligations to provide appropriate age-verification tools to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. 

The probe is the second into the company under the EU’s Digital Services Act. The landmark legislation is designed to police content online, with sweeping new rules on the protection of minors. 

European Commission wrote: Today, the Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether Meta, the provider of Facebook and Instagram, may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to the protection of minors.

The Commission is concerned that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate behavioural addictions in children, as well as create so-called ‘rabbit-hole effects.’ In addition, the Commission is also concerned about age-assurance and verification methods put in place by Meta.

The current proceedings address the following areas:

  • Meta’s compliance with DSA obligations on assessment and mitigation of risks caused by the design of Facebook’s and Instagram’s online interfaces, which may exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behaviour and/or reinforce so-called ‘rabbit hole effect. Such an assessment 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.
  • Meta’s compliance with DSA requirements in relation to the mitigation measures to prevent access by minors to inappropriate content, notably age-verification tools used by Meta, which may not be reasonable, appropriate, proportionate and effective.
  • Meta’s compliance with DSA obligations to put in place appropriate and proportionate measures 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 recommended systems.

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

If the commission is not satisfied with Meta’s response, it can impose a fine equating to 6% of its global turnover. More immediately, it can carry out on-site investigations and interview company executives, with no deadline publicly fixed to complete the investigation.

In my opinion, parents with young children, who want to view Instagram, should sit down with them and act as a filter for content that is inappropriate for their kids. Clearly, Meta isn’t trying hard enough to keep children safe on their platform.


Meta Wants To Put Students And Teachers In Quest VR Headsets



If Meta has its way, students will tour faraway museums, walk among dinosaurs and view human intestines up close — all from the comfort of their classroom, using Quest, virtual reality (VR) headsets, Axios reported.

Why it matters: As educators grapple with AI and other new tech tools, a deep-pocketed push to turn VR into a classroom staple raises new questions about the future of learning — and what’s best for kids.

According to Axios, the two big companies competing VR/MR (mixed reality) headsets — Meta’s Quest and Apple’s Vision Pro – are heavy, expensive and don’t work for people with some vision impairments.

Plus, there are plenty of VR skeptics who say its much better for kids to communicate and socialize in person without headsets — particularly during school hours.

Meta’s Nick Clegg, President, Global Affairs, posted on the Meta website:

Of all the ways in which metaverse technologies like virtual, mixed, and augmented reality could prove to be transformative, the potential they have for education is one of the most exciting.

For most of us, learning is social — we learn from and with others, and from each other’s experiences. It’s about interaction and discussion as much as it is about absorbing facts. That’s why the unique feeling of presence and immersion these technologies create can be so impactful in education.

They also make things possible that are impossible in the physical world. Instead of telling students that what the dinosaurs were like, they can walk among them. Virtual science laboratories can be built and filled with equipment that most schools would never be able to afford. Classes can go on field trips to the best museums, no matter how far away they are. And they can be used to take the risk out of otherwise dangerous or expensive technical or vocational training…

…To make it easier for educators, later this year Meta will be launching a new product offering for Quest devices dedicated to education, just as last year’s Meta Quest for Business was designed for the workplace. It will allow teachers, trainers, and features, and make it possible for them to manage multiple Quest devices at once, without the need for each device in a classroom or training environment to be updated or prepared individually. This will save teachers time and allow students to pick up the headsets and get started right away — something that educators using our devices have consistently told us they want…

TechCrunch reported on Monday, the company announced in a blog post that later this year it will be launching a new education product for Quest to position its VR headset as a go-to device for teaching in classrooms. The product is yet to be named.

Business models for hardware and services also have yet to be spelled out. With nothing on the table, the company is framing it as a long-term bet.

In my opinion, the Quest devices remind me of the book “Ready Player One”, where the characters used a headset to virtually attend school. The difference is that the students will already be at school. I wonder what the cost of the Quest headsets will be, and how many schools will be able to afford them.


Meta Tells Small Businesses To Boost And Avoid Apple Service Charges



Meta announced “New Ways For Small Businesses To Boost And Avoid Apple Service Charges” From the announcement:

Businesses with limited resources have found tremendous value in advertising through boosted posts to find new customers and have been utilizing them for many years. In fact, nearly all boosted post users are small businesses.

To support the millions of small businesses that use boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram, advertisers can now go to instagram.com and facebook.com on mobile and desktop their content and avoid a 30% Apple service charge.

The Apple service charge is a result of updates Apple made to the App Store Review Guidelines. Starting later this month, when an advertiser uses the Facebook or Instagram iOS app to Boost a post, they will be billed through Apple, which retains a 30% service charge on the total ad payment, before any applicable taxes. This charge is retained by Apple, not Meta.

We are required to either comply with Apple’s guidelines, or remove boosted posts from our apps. We do not want to remove the ability to boost posts, as this would hurt small businesses by making the feature less discoverable and potentially deprive them of a valuable way to promote their business.

We are committed to offering businesses flexible and convenient options to help them navigate this change and maximize the results of their ad spend. As parts of our efforts to do this, we have invested in alternative ways to boost posts.

Specifically, advertisers can access facebook.com and instagram.com on both desktop computers or a mobile web browser to boost their content. When doing this, they will have the same features as boosting posts from the iOS apps, except now they will avoid the Apple service charge…

MacRumors reported that in response to Meta’s announcement, Apple said App Store apps have always been required to use its in-app purchase system for the sale of digital goods and services.

“We have always required that purchases of digital goods and services within apps must use In-App Purchase,” said Apple, in a statement shared with MacRumors today. “Boosting, which allows an individual or organization to pay to increase the reach of a post or profile, is a digital service — so of course, In-App Purchase is required. This has always been the case and there are many examples of apps that do it successfully.”

As part of its response, Apple said that it has indeed given Meta ample opportunity to comply with the App Store Review Guidelines in October 2022. That grace period is clearly ended now.

The Verge reported that Meta is one of many companies that waged criticism against Apple and it’s new policies in recent months. After introducing a 27 percent tax on alternative payment methods in the US, Apple also announced plans to start allowing developers in the European Union to have their apps exist on alternative app stores, as long as they pay a brand-new “Core Technology Fee.”

Overall, I feel like this is a fight between Meta and Apple. Their spat isn’t going to affect people who casually use Facebook or Instagram. That said, it might cause some problems for Meta if advertisers flee.


Meta’s Threads Launches In Europe



Meta Platforms rolled out Threads in Europe, months after the Facebook and Instagram parent launched the microblogging app in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch Thursday on Threads, writing that “we’re opening Threads to more countries in Europe.”

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta planned to launch Threads in Europe in December in its largest market expansion since its debut in July.

Upon its initial launch, Threads became available to most markets worldwide, but Meta had withheld launching in the European Union because of the bloc’s regulations for online services, which are among the toughest in the world.

Users in the EU can choose to create a Threads profile connected to their Instagram account, or use it without a profile to search accounts, browse and share content via link copying or platform sharing, but without the ability to create a post or interact with other content, Meta said in a statement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Threads’ market expansion comes after several advertisers paused their ad spending on Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, after he made controversial comments from his account.

Meta posted an update about Threads on December 14, 2023:

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced that we are expanding Threads to countries across Europe. We’re excited to give more people the opportunity to follow and join the conversations they care about. Since launching Threads in July, we’ve made significant improvements to the app, including a web experience, a Following Feed, the ability to edit a post, search with keywords, tag topics and more.

People in the EU can choose to create a Threads profile that is connected to their Instagram account – which means they get the same experience as everyone else around the world – or use Threads without a profile. People who use Threads without a profile can browse content on Threads, search for accounts, share content via link copying or platform sharing, and report Threads content, but can’t create a post or interact with content.

We are excited to see more people using Threads and will continue to listen to community feedback to further improve the experience for everyone.

The Guardian reported that before launching Threads in the EU, Meta first needed to seek approval from the European Commission over the app’s privacy provisions. Many speculated the delay was due to the EU Digital Markets Act, which addressed a variety of big tech antitrust and privacy concerns – including sharing content across platforms.

Meta did not specifically site the act as the reason for the delay, but the Instagram executive Adam Mosseri said: “The complexities without complying with some of the laws coming into effect next year are significant.”

I don’t use Threads, but I can see the benefit of it for people who have chosen that social media platform. In my opinion, (almost) any social media site is better than what’s going on at X, formerly known as Twitter.


Meta Starts Testing Integration With ActivityPub



Mark Zuckerberg said today that Meta has started testing a feature to show Threads posts on Mastodon and other ActivityPub protocol-supported networks, TechCrunch reported.

Mark Zuckerberg posted on Threads: “Starting a test where posts from Threads accounts will be available on Mastodon and other services that use the ActivityPub protocol. Making Threads interoperable will give people more choice over how they interact and it will help content reach more people. I’m pretty optimistic about this.”

According to TechCrunch, while this is an important step for Threads to be part of the federated social network, Zuckerberg didn’t provide any detail on how the integration might work just yet. 

It’s not clear what is the roadmap for Thread’s ActivityPub integration might let you easily cross-post between Mastodon (or other ActivityPub-powered networks) and Threads or move your data around. 

The Verge reported that joining the fediverse – the decentralized world of social media that includes Mastodon, Pixelfed, and other services that all interoperate through ActivityPub – has been on Threads team’s to-do list since the very beginning. 

Instagram head Adam Mosseri told The Verge in July that he believed decentralizing the platform was the key to making it relevant to a new generation of creators. “I think we might be a more compelling platform for creators, particularly for the newer creators who are more and more savvy, if we are a place where you don’t have to feel like you have trust us forever.”

According to The Verge, skeptics have long held that Threads would never actually federate, even as Zuckerberg, Mosseri, and others at Meta kept promising they would. For the largest and most centralized social service on the web, suddenly throwing open the gates to other platforms seemed like an unlikely pivot. 

And as Threads got bigger and more mature, ActivityPub integration became a bigger project – and as the platform became more successful, there were reasons for Meta to try and back off its decentralized plans. But it appears the company might actually do it.

Engadget reported Meta is taking its first step toward making Threads compatible with the fediverse. A new test will make some Threads content available on Mastodon and other apps for the first time, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post on Threads.

It wasn’t immediately clear how this would work or how much Threads content might be available on Mastodon or other services. But the company previously introduced the ability to verify your Threads profile on Mastodon, so Meta does have some insight into Threads users who are also active in the fediverse.

Personally, I think it might be interesting to see Threads content on the Fediverse. It might be good for people who are on the fediverse to see posts from friends who chose Threads over Bluesky.

Personally, I think it might be interesting to see Threads content on the fediverse. It might be good for people who are on the fediverse to see posts from friends who chose Threads over Bluesky.

 


Unsealed Complaint Says Meta “Coveted” Under-13s



An unsealed complaint in a lawsuit filed against Meta by 33 states alleges the company is not only aware that children under the age of 13 use its platforms, but has also “coveted and pursued” this demographic for years on Instagram, Engadget reported.

The document, which was first spotted by The New York Times, claims that Meta has long been dishonest about how it handles underage users’ accounts when they’re discovered, often failing to disable them when reported and continuing to harvest their data.

According to Engadget, the newly unsealed complaint, filed on Wednesday, reveals arguments that were previously redacted when attorneys generals from across the US first hit Meta with the lawsuit last month in the California federal court. It alleges that the presence of under-13s is an “open secret” at Meta.

Meta’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, proposed a requirement for parents to have approval power for downloads for kids under the age of 16.

Mashable reported Meta loves to decry that it does its best to protect children on its platform. After all, kids under 13 can’t even sign up for Instagram or Facebook because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 – but that doesn’t actually stop most kids from signing up because lying online is a classic American pastime.

And we know that Meta knows this, Mashable reported. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 that “there is clearly a large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram.” This is part of the reason the platform has considered creating Instagram Youth.

Meta told Mashable in an emailed statement that Instagram doesn’t allow users under the age of 13 to use the app and that it has “measures in place to remove these accounts when we identify them.”

PCMag reported that Meta has received 1.1 million reports of users under the age of 13 using Instagram since 2019; however, the company has opted to disable only a small fraction of those accounts, according to The New York Times.

A newly unsealed legal complaint brought against the company by the attorneys of 33 states shows that not only did Meta not delete the accounts, but the company, “routinely continued to collect” the children’s personal information, including their email addresses and phone numbers, without their parent’s permission, a violation of federal children’s privacy laws.

The complaint was filed last month in the US District Court for the Northern District of California by California, Colorado, and 31 other states.

In a statement Saturday to the New York Times, Meta says the complaint “mischaracterizes our work using selective quotes and cherry-picked documents.”

In my opinion, this is really bad news for Meta. It seems to me that allowing children to use Meta’s platforms – without the knowledge of the children’s parents – is not a good look for a company that should have known better.


Meta Urges Lawmakers To Require Parental Approval for App Store Downloads



Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, called on federal lawmakers Wednesday to pass legislation requiring parental approval for app store downloads by teenagers, as the company faces pressure to strengthen protections for children on its social media platforms, The Hill reported.

Under Meta’s suggested approach, parents would receive notification when their teens attempt to download an app and could decide whether to approve the download. They would also be able to verify their teen’s age when setting up the phone initially.

According to The Hill, a bipartisan coalition of 33 states also sued Meta in October, alleging the company knowingly designed and deployed features that harmed young users’ mental health. Another eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, also filed lawsuits against Meta in state court.

Meta posted news titled: “Parenting in a Digital World Is Hard. Congress Can Make It Easier”. It was written by Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety. Here are some key paragraphs from the news:

Being a parent is hard. Parents always had the constant worry of how their children are doing in school, on the playground, on the sports field, but today’s generation of parents have a whole new world to navigate with their children: their online lives. I think about these challenges every day as we work to develop safe, positive experiences for young people on apps like Instagram, and as we think about making things simpler for parents.

Parents want to be involved in their teen’s online lives, and recent Pew research suggests that 81% of US adults support requiring parental consent for teens to create a social media account. But technology is constantly changing and keeping up with all the apps teens use can feel impossible. As an industry, we should come together with lawmakers to create simple, efficient ways for parents to oversee their teens’ online experiences.

…US states are passing a patchwork of different laws, many of which require teens (of varying ages) to get their parent’s approval to use certain apps, and for everyone to verify their age to access them. Teens move interchangeably between many websites and apps, and social media laws that hold different platforms to different standards in different states will mean teens are inconsistently protected.

Why does this affect parents? If laws are passed as written, every time your teen wants to sign up for an app (assuming the app follows the rules), you will need to go through different methods to sign up, provide your and your teen’s potentially sensitive identification and information to apps with inconsistent security and privacy practices, and repeat that process over and over.

There’s a better way. Parents should approve their teen’s app downloads, and we support federal legislation that requires app stores to get parents’ approval whenever their teens under 16 download apps. With this solution, when a teen wants to download an app, app stores would be required to notify their parents, much like when parents are notified if their teen attempts to make a purchase.

Parents can decide if they want to approve the download. They can also verify the age of their teen when setting up their phone, negating the need for everyone to verify their age multiple times…

In my opinion, it sounds as though Meta is putting pressure on parents to make decisions about what apps their teenagers can (or cannot) use. It also appears that Meta seems to be implying that U.S. lawmakers should make laws that govern all 50 states, rather than continue the patchwork quilt of laws regarding teens who use apps.