New Mexico AG sues Meta alleging inaction on child abuse and trafficking

New Mexico AG sues Meta alleging inaction on child abuse and trafficking

A scathing lawsuit against Meta Platforms accuses executives of not protecting children from sexual abuse, solicitation and trafficking on its platforms.

SANTA FE, N.M. — A scathing lawsuit against Meta Platforms accuses executives of not protecting children from sexual abuse, solicitation and trafficking on its platforms.

New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez announced the lawsuit Wednesday. The lawsuit names the company and its subsidiaries, including Facebook and Instagram, as well as CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

AG Torrez alleges Meta Platforms’ practices contributed to an increase in trafficking in New Mexico. His office filed a complaint laying out evidence collected during an investigation.

The attorney general said his office created decoy accounts of children aged 14 and under to gather findings over the last few months. They allegedly found the platforms served the underage users “a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images,” even after specifying their disinterest in it.

Adults could allegedly reach out to the users with ease and pressure them into taking explicit pictures or participating in pornographic videos.

Investigators also allegedly found “unmoderated Facebook groups facilitating commercial sex.” They also allegedly found “an enormous volume” of child porn available to share and sell.

The attorney general alleges Meta let a fictitious mother offer her 13-year-old daughter for sale to sex traffickers. They also allege that the mother could create a professional page to let her daughter share revenue from advertising.

Torrez claims the company knows about this type of sexual exploitation and trafficking on its platforms but has failed to address it.

“They are not safe spaces for children but rather prime locations for predators to trade child pornography and solicit minors for sex,” Torrez said. “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. I will hold companies — and their executives — accountable whenever they put profits ahead of children’s safety.” 

The lawsuit also attributes a rise in mental health issues and a decline in educational attainment, among young people in New Mexico, to social media addiction and misuse stemming from Meta Platforms.

“Algorithms recommended content in such volumes to such a degree to create an epidemic,” the complaint states.

Last month, attorney generals in 33 states filed a similar lawsuit. They accused Meta Platforms of designing its platforms to hook kids and that executives did nothing to address underage accounts.

In response, Meta stated to The Associated Press that the complaint misrepresents its work over the past decade to make the online experience safe for teens, noting it has “over 30 tools to support them and their parents.”

Torrez is seeking a permanent injunction to ensure Meta and its employees, executives, subsidiaries and partners do not engage in these alleged unfair practices in the future.

Torrez is also seeking to penalize each defendant $5,000 for each violation of the Unfair Practices Act, which penalizes companies for admittedly committing unfair trade practices in New Mexico.

We reached out to Meta Platforms regarding this lawsuit. A spokesperson responded, saying they aren’t yet able to comment on the specific claims but provided this statement:

“Child exploitation is a horrific crime and online predators are determined criminals. 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 state attorneys general, to help root out predators. In one month alone, we disabled more than half a million accounts for violating our child safety policies.”

The spokesperson pointed out Meta’s work to fight predators and claimed the company has:

  • Automatically blocked more than 250,000 devices on Instagram for child safety violations, since August 1
  • Reviewed and removed 16,000 groups that “violate our child safety policies” since July 1
  • Reviewed and removed over 190,000 groups from Search since July 1
  • Disrupted 32 abusive networks and removed over 160,000 associated accounts between 2020 and 2023
  • Disabled more than 500,000 accounts for violating child sexual exploitation policies

The spokesperson also said they sent “over 7.5 million reports” of child sexual exploitation, related to shared or reshared photos and videos that contain child sexual abuse material, to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Feliz Romero talked with New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez about this lawsuit. See that in the video above.