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EU Launches Investigation into Meta Over Child Safety Concerns

EU probes Meta for child social media addiction, assessing compliance with Digital Services Act's child safety measures.

By Mackenzie Crow

5/16, 06:26 EDT
Meta Platforms, Inc.

Key Takeaway

  • EU launches investigation into Meta for potentially fostering addictive behaviors in children, under the Digital Services Act.
  • Probe to assess Meta's compliance with age verification and harmful content management, with potential fines up to 6% of annual turnover.
  • Investigation reflects EU's broader regulatory focus on digital platform accountability and child safety online.

EU Investigates Meta for Child Safety

The European Commission has initiated a comprehensive investigation into Meta, the conglomerate behind Facebook and Instagram, focusing on the platforms' potential role in fostering addictive behaviors among children. Announced on May 16, 2024, the probe aims to determine if Meta's applications contribute to so-called "rabbit hole effects," leading users, particularly minors, to engage with increasingly harmful or addictive content. Additionally, the investigation will assess Meta's adherence to legal requirements for age verification tools, designed to prevent children from accessing inappropriate material. This action underscores the European Union's intensified scrutiny over the impact of technology giants on younger users.

Enforcement of the Digital Services Act

This investigation falls under the Digital Services Act (DSA), a significant legislative framework established by the EU to regulate online content and enhance digital safety, especially for minors. The DSA mandates that large online platforms, with over 45 million users in the EU, implement stringent measures to combat harmful content and misinformation. Meta's compliance with these obligations is now under review, following a preliminary analysis of a risk assessment report submitted by the company in September 2023. The DSA also includes provisions for substantial penalties, including fines up to 6% of a company's global annual turnover for non-compliance, highlighting the serious implications for Meta if found in violation.

Awaiting Meta's Response

As of the announcement date, Meta has not publicly responded to the European Commission's investigation. The tech community and regulatory bodies are keenly awaiting the company's official stance, particularly concerning strategies to mitigate addictive behaviors and ensure the safety and privacy of minor users on its platforms. Meta's response will be crucial in shaping future regulatory actions and could influence broader industry practices regarding content management and user interaction, with a special focus on protecting vulnerable groups such as children.

Regulatory Scrutiny Intensifies

The investigation into Meta represents a broader effort by the EU to hold digital platforms accountable for their impact on society, particularly on the mental and physical health of young Europeans. Commissioner Thierry Breton emphasized the EU's commitment to protecting children, indicating a rigorous approach to enforcing the DSA. This probe is part of a series of regulatory actions targeting tech giants, with Meta facing additional investigations under the DSA for issues related to content moderation and disinformation. The outcome of these investigations could have significant implications for Meta's operations in the EU, including potential fines and operational restrictions.

Management Quotes

  • Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market:

    "We are not convinced that Meta has done enough to comply with the DSA obligations to mitigate the risks of negative effects to the physical and mental health of young Europeans on its platforms Facebook and Instagram. We are sparing no effort to protect our children."