Thursday, April 25

Instagram and Facebook subscriptions face new child safety review

The New Mexico attorney general, who last year sued Meta alleging it failed to protect children from sexual predators and made false claims about the security of its platforms, announced Monday that his office would review how the company’s paid subscription services attract predators.

Attorney General Raúl Torrez said he formally asked the social media company for documents on Facebook and Instagram subscriptions, which are frequently available on children’s accounts managed by parents.

Instagram doesn’t allow users under 13, but accounts aimed entirely at children are allowed as long as they are managed by an adult. The New York Times published an investigation into daughter influencers on the platform on Thursday, reporting that so-called mom-run accounts charge subscribers up to $19.99 a month for additional photos as well as chat sessions and the like. extras.

The Times found that adult men subscribe to these accounts, including some who actively participate in forums where people discuss girls in sexual terms.

“This deeply disturbing pattern of behavior puts children at risk – and persists despite a wave of lawsuits and congressional investigations,” Mr. Torrez said in a statement.

Mr. Torrez filed a lawsuit in December accusing Meta of enabling harmful activity between adults and minors on Facebook and Instagram and failing to detect and remove such activity when it was reported. The allegations were based, in part, on the findings of accounts created by Mr. Torrez’s office, including that of a fictitious 14-year-old girl who received an offer of $180,000 to appear in a pornographic video.

Although Instagram’s rules prohibit users under 18 from offering subscriptions, accounts run by mothers get around this restriction.

“I found the New York Times’ reporting on the creation of a market financed by child predators deeply disturbing,” Mr. Torrez said. “After reading the Times article, I sent Meta a new request for documents based on alarming findings.”

Instagram introduced subscriptions in 2022. The added feature came as social media companies compete fiercely for people engaged in what’s known as the creator economy. Instagram doesn’t cut subscription revenue, but it benefits when influencers and other popular users choose the platform to grow their fan base.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Meta staff members had raised the alarm about the subscription service’s rollout. The article cited anonymous Meta employees saying some parents knew they were producing content for “the sexual gratification of other adults.”

Some of these accounts include clips, behind-the-scenes photos, and other “exclusive content” in their subscription offerings, which parents see as a good way to earn extra money for girl influencers. Many mothers told the Times that they spent countless hours blocking “creepy” men from following the accounts, which many continue to manage even after their daughters become teenagers; others said the large number of followers was beneficial for promoting their daughters on Instagram.

A group of more than 40 other state attorneys general also sued Meta in state and federal court last year, alleging that its products were harmful to adolescents and young adolescents and that the company was aware of these misdeeds.

A Meta spokesman, Andy Stone, in a statement Monday, did not respond to Mr. Torrez’s new request for information. I reiterated my previous responses to the lawsuits against the company.

“Child exploitation is a horrific crime and online predators are determined criminals,” he said. “We use sophisticated technology, hire child safety experts, report content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and share information and tools with other companies and law enforcement, including prosecutors state generals, to help eliminate predators.”