New Mexico AG Sues Meta Platforms and Mark Zuckerberg Following Undercover Operation Involving Minors

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On Thursday, New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez launched a major legal offensive in an attempt to address the online risks faced by minors.

The lawsuit targeted Meta Platforms, Inc., its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and associated entities such as Instagram, LLC and Facebook Holdings, LLC. This bold action seeks to prevent the exploitation of children on social media platforms.

“Our investigation into Meta’s social media platforms demonstrates that they are not safe spaces for children but rather prime locations for predators to trade child pornography and solicit minors for sex,” Attorney General Torrez said in a statement.

“As a career prosecutor who specialized in internet crimes against children, I am committed to using every available tool to put an end to these horrific practices and I will hold companies — and their executives — accountable whenever they put profits ahead of children’s safety,” he added.

For the past few months, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office conducted an undercover operation in which they posed as minors under 14 on Meta’s platforms. This sting operation yielded alarming results, revealing that:

  • Proactively served and directed the underage users a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images — even when the child has expressed no interest in this content
  • Enabled dozens of adults to find, contact, and press children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos.
  • Recommended that the children join unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex.
  • Allowed Facebook and Instagram users to find, share, and sell an enormous volume of child pornography.
  • Allowed a fictitious mother to offer her 13-year-old daughter for sale to sex traffickers and to create a professional page to allow her daughter to share revenue from advertising.

AG Torrez expressed grave concern about the knowledge and inaction of Meta executives such as Mark Zuckerberg, emphasizing that they are fully cognizant of the hazards their platforms may pose to young users.

“Mr. Zuckerberg and other Meta executives are aware of the serious harm their products can pose to young users, and yet they have failed to make sufficient changes to their platforms that would prevent the sexual exploitation of children,” Torrez added.

“Despite repeated assurances to Congress and the public that they can be trusted to police themselves, it is clear that Meta’s executives continue to prioritize engagement and ad revenue over the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society,” he added.

Investigators were astonished to discover that Facebook and Instagram were inundated with child exploitation content at a rate higher than adult platforms like Pornhub and OnlyFans.

The complaint, which had to omit a variety of explicit material due to its controversial nature, begins with a bold black box warning regarding the sexually explicit images it does include as evidence.

This is not the first time that Facebook has been under scrutiny for being an ideal place for sexual offenders.

In early 2021, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody requested Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the State’s Human Trafficking Council in response to an exposé detailing how Meta’s platforms – Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger – are frequently used by human traffickers.

The Florida Legislature called upon the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking to conduct research into the prevalence and influence of social media networks in regards to human trafficking within Florida.

This investigation was based on responses from law enforcement agencies concerning cases since 2019 where social media was utilized for victim recruitment or control purposes in human trafficking operations.

According to the 2022 Federal Human Trafficking Report, Facebook was the leading platform used for recruiting human trafficking victims from 2019 to 2022. Of the top ten platforms cited in the report, Facebook and Instagram combined accounted for 60%.

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal and researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted a joint investigation which uncovered that Instagram is serving as a hub for connecting and promoting accounts devoted to commissioning and purchasing underage-sex content.

Furthermore, Instagram’s algorithms actively encourage such activities by connecting pedophiles with sellers of illicit content, guiding them towards it.

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