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EC launches formal probe into how Meta protects minors

Thu 16 May 2024 12:19 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - The European Commission has launched formal proceedings to investigate whether Meta may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) through how it treats and protects minors on Facebook and Instagram.

Meta will be investigated over whether it is exploiting the weakness and inexperience of minors to cause addictive behaviour on Facebook and Instagram, which has the potential risk to harm their physical and mental wellbeing, a statement said on Thursday.

"Today we are taking another step to ensure safety for young online users," said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age.

"We have concerns that Facebook and Instagram may stimulate behavioural addiction and that the methods of age verification that Meta has put in place on their services is not adequate and will now carry on an in-depth investigation. We want to protect young people's mental and physical health," Vestager said.

The Commission is looking at whether the algorithms of the social media platforms cause "behavioural additions" in children, including the creation of so-called 'rabbit-hole effects', where users are shown videos that become increasingly more extreme the more they watch.

Regulators are also looking into whether age-assurance and verification methods used by Meta are adequate to prevent minors from accessing or being served inappropriate content.

An in-depth investigation "as a matter of priority" is now taking place, and the opening of formal proceedings gives the Commission the power the take "enforcement steps" like interim measures and non-compliance decisions.

"If proven, these failures would constitute infringements of Articles 28, 34, and 35 of the DSA. The opening of formal proceedings does not prejudge its outcome, and is without prejudice to any other proceeding that the Commission may decide to initiate on any other conduct that may constitute an infringement under the DSA," the Commission said.

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