Facebook and Instagram Under Scrutiny - Are They Too Addictive?

European Union investigating Facebook and Instagram European Union investigating Facebook and Instagram pixabay

The European Union is investigating Facebook and Instagram to determine if they are so addictive that they have "negative effects" on the "physical and mental health" of children. The investigation also includes checking whether these platforms have implemented sufficient measures to ensure that users are old enough to use them and how content is recommended to children.

What will you learn?

1. Why is the European Union investigating Facebook and Instagram?
2. What are the main concerns of the European Commission regarding the impact of Facebook and Instagram on children?
3. What are the "rabbit hole effects" associated with social media algorithms?
4. What age verification methods does Meta use on its platforms?
5. What could be the consequences of the EU investigation for Facebook and Instagram?

Concerns about children's mental health

The European Union has expressed concerns that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate behavioral addictions in children and create so-called "rabbit hole effects." This effect refers to the tendency of algorithms to suggest more harmful content once a user views a single piece of such content.

"The Commission is concerned that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate behavioral addictions in children," stated the European Commission, announcing the investigation. Meta, the parent company of both platforms, claims it has "spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies" aimed at protecting children.

Age verification of users

Another aspect that concerns the Commission is the age verification methods used by Meta. "The Commission is also concerned about the age assurance and verification methods put in place by Meta," the statement added. As with most social networks, users of Meta platforms must be at least 13 years old, but as revealed in a recent report by the UK's communications watchdog Ofcom, many much younger children use accounts, sometimes with their parents' knowledge.

Response and further steps

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said in a post on X (formerly Twitter): "We are not convinced that Meta has done enough to comply with the DSA obligations — to mitigate the risks of negative effects to the physical and mental health of young Europeans on its platforms Facebook and Instagram." His colleague, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, added: "We are concerned that Facebook and Instagram may stimulate behavioral addiction and that the age verification methods that Meta has put in place on their services are not adequate."

Meta has already been under investigation by the EU over concerns regarding political disinformation. Now, in light of the new investigation, the company faces additional challenges and must demonstrate that it is taking appropriate steps to protect young users.

The European Union is investigating potential breaches of new digital regulations by Facebook and Instagram. Meta, the owner of both platforms, is accused of insufficiently protecting children from addiction and inadequate age verification methods. The investigation could lead to severe penalties if the company does not meet DSA requirements.

Source: BBC

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