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Meta hit by child safety probe under sweeping EU tech law

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on January 31, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Parent company Facebook Meta Thursday was hit by a major European Union investigation into alleged violations of the bloc’s strict online content law over risks to children’s safety.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said in a statement it was investigating whether the social media giant’s Facebook and Instagram platforms “could stimulate behavioral addictions in children, as well as create what we called ‘rabbit hole effects’.

The Commission added that it was concerned about age checks on Meta’s platforms, as well as privacy risks linked to the company’s recommendation algorithms.

“We want young people to have safe, age-appropriate online experiences and we have spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies designed to protect them,” a Meta spokesperson told CNBC via email. .

“This is a challenge facing the whole sector, and we look forward to sharing the details of our work with the European Commission.”

The Commission said its decision to open an investigation followed a preliminary analysis report of the risk assessment report provided by Meta in September 2023.

Thierry Breton, the European commissioner for the internal market, said in a statement that the regulator is “not convinced (that Meta) has done enough to comply with DSA’s obligations to mitigate the risks of negative effects on the physical and mental health of young Europeans. on its platforms. »

The EU said it would “as a matter of priority” carry out a thorough investigation into Meta’s child protection measures. The bloc can continue to gather evidence through requests for information, interviews or inspections.

Opening a DSA investigation allows the EU to take additional enforcement measures, including provisional measures and non-compliance decisions, the Commission said. The Commission added that it could also take into account the commitments made by Meta to address its concerns.

Meta and its fellow US tech giants have found themselves increasingly in the spotlight of EU scrutiny since the introduction of the bloc’s landmark Digital Services Act, a groundbreaking European Commission law aimed at fight against harmful content.

Under the EU DSA, companies can be fined up to 6% of their global annual turnover for violations. The bloc has yet to fine tech giants under its new law.

In December 2023, the EU opened infringement proceedings against X, the company formerly known as Twitter, for alleged failure to combat disinformation and content manipulation.

The Commission is also investigating Meta regarding alleged violations of the DSA related to its handling of election disinformation.

In April, the bloc launched an investigation into the company and expressed concern that Meta had not done enough to combat disinformation in the run-up to the upcoming European Parliament elections.

The EU is not the only authority taking action against Meta for child safety reasons.

In the United States, the New Mexico attorney general is suing the company over allegations that Facebook and Instagram enabled child sexual abuse, solicitation and trafficking.

A Meta spokesperson said at the time that the company was deploying “sophisticated technology” and taking other preventative measures to eliminate predators.

News Source : www.cnbc.com
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