Meta pursues children to join its platforms, documents claim

27 Nov 2023

Image: © Syifa5610/

Meta is facing allegations that it received more than 1.1m reports of children using its platforms but disabled ‘only a fraction’ of those accounts.

There are various claims that Meta’s business practices have harmed children and that the company has falsely assured the public that its platforms are safe for younger users.

Recently unsealed court documents allege that Meta has designed and deployed “harmful and psychologically manipulative product features” to keep younger users on its platforms for longer.

These documents also claim that the company tries to direct Facebook and Instagram towards children under the age of 13, despite children being prohibited from using these platforms.

The complaints come from a massive lawsuit filed last month by a coalition of 33 US attorneys general. These attorneys general are seeking “injunctive and monetary relief” to address the alleged misconduct.

One of the allegations is that Instagram has millions of users under the age of 13 and that Meta has been aware of this for years.  The court documents claims that Meta received more than 1.1m reports of users under the age of 13 between 2019 and the first half of 2023. These reports allegedly came from Instagram’s underage reporting webform and its in-app underage reporting process.

The attorneys general claim that Meta disabled “only a fraction” of those reported accounts and that the company “continued to collect children’s data without parental consent”. The documents also claim that children under the age of 13 are an “intended audience” of Instagram, according to internal communications.

The documents allege that Meta pursues children for short-term revenue and as a long-term goal to retain those same users as they grow older and continue to use its platforms.

A Meta spokesperson told Associated Press that the complaint misrepresents its work to make its platforms safe for teens and that age verification is a “complex industry challenge”.

Earlier this month, unsealed court documents alleged that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned down multiple initiatives that aimed to improve the company’s platforms for young people.

Earlier that week, Meta whistleblower Arturo Béjar spoke out against the company’s practices and claimed that the tech giant is aware of the harm teenagers face on its platforms but has failed to act.

Béjar claimed that Meta has opted to give users “placebo” tools that fail to address issues impacting teenagers and that the company “continues to publicly misrepresent the level and frequency of harm that users, especially children, experience on the platform”.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic