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Meta Faces EU Scrutiny Over Child Safety on Facebook and Instagram

The investigation will decide if Meta is violating Digital Services Act (DSA) laws, with the European Commission looking at privacy and age verification.


The European Commission has initiated formal proceedings to determine whether Meta, the parent company of and , has breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in relation to the protection of minors. This investigation follows an earlier probe into Meta's handling of political misinformation ahead of the European elections in June.

Concerns Over Child Safety

The Commission's investigation will focus on three potential violations of the DSA, which was enacted in August last year. The first area of scrutiny is whether Meta has adequately assessed and mitigated risks associated with the design of Facebook and Instagram's interfaces. There are concerns that these designs may exploit minors' vulnerabilities, leading to addictive behaviors and reinforcing the “rabbit hole” effect, where users are continuously exposed to similar content.

Effectiveness of Age Verification and Data Privacy

The second aspect of the investigation will examine the effectiveness of Meta's age-verification tools. The Commission questions whether these tools are reasonable, proportionate, and effective in preventing minors from accessing inappropriate content. Ensuring that young users are not exposed to harmful material is a key focus of this probe.

Lastly, the Commission will evaluate whether Meta has implemented appropriate measures to ensure a high level of privacy, safety, and security for minors. This includes an assessment of default privacy settings and recommendation systems on both Facebook and Instagram. The investigation will specifically look at compliance with Articles 28, 34, and 35 of the DSA, which pertain to these aspects.

Thierry Breton, the Commissioner for the Internal Market, expressed doubts about Meta's compliance with the DSA, stating that the Commission is not convinced that Meta has done enough to protect minors on its platforms. Breton emphasized the importance of investigating the potential addictive effects of the platforms, the effectiveness of age verification, and the level of privacy afforded to minors.

Separate Investigations for Facebook and Instagram

A Commission official noted that Facebook and Instagram will be investigated separately, as they are distinct platforms under the DSA. The Commission will continue its investigation by requesting additional information, conducting interviews, and performing inspections. There is no fixed timetable for the completion of these investigations.

The European Commission has been actively enforcing the DSA since its introduction. For instance, TikTok was recently given 24 hours to explain its risk assessment procedures before launching TikTok Lite, a version of the app that offers rewards for completing tasks. Additionally, Elon Musk's X platform became the first to face formal DSA proceedings.

Previous Investigations and Broader Implications

This move comes only weeks after the Commission announced another investigation into Meta, focusing on the company's handling of disinformation on its platform. The DSA contains the legal requirements that Meta is suspected of breaching, and this investigation follows a preliminary analysis of regulatory compliance data from Meta.

The EU is concerned that the two platforms' interfaces may be causing “behavioral addictions in children” and creating “rabbit-hole effects.” European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager stated, “Today we are taking another step to ensure safety for young online users. With the Digital Services Act, we established rules that can protect minors when they interact online.”

In early April, officials started examining whether the company is complying with DSA rules that require it to tackle deceptive ads, disinformation, and coordinated inauthentic behavior on its platforms. The probe also includes potential DSA violations stemming from Meta's plans to discontinue CrowdTangle, a tool that allows researchers and journalists to track election-related content on its platforms. Officials will also review whether the giant is complying with platform transparency requirements.

A company that violates the DSA can face fines equal to up to 6% of its global annual revenue. Additionally, the European Commission may order changes to the business practices that were found to breach the law. Repeat DSA violations can potentially lead to a ban in the EU single market.

Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke has been writing about all things tech for more than five years. He is following Microsoft closely to bring you the latest news about Windows, Office, Azure, Skype, HoloLens and all the rest of their products.

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