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.