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  • Marijan Hassan - Tech Journalist

EU launches probe into Meta over social media addiction in children

The European Union (EU) has launched an official investigation into Meta, the company behind Facebook and Instagram, regarding potential risks to children's mental health caused by addictive social media experiences.

The probe centers on whether Meta's platforms, particularly their algorithmic recommendation systems, exploit children's vulnerabilities and inexperience to create dependence. The EU Commission expressed concern that these mechanisms might fuel "behavioral addictions" and lead users down "rabbit holes" of curated content that can be unhealthy or overwhelming.

This investigation falls under the umbrella of the Digital Services Act (DSA), a recently enacted EU regulation that outlines responsibilities for online platforms concerning user safety and content moderation. The EU is particularly interested in how effectively Meta addresses potential risks associated with:

Algorithmic Addiction: The EU is concerned that Meta's algorithms might prioritize engagement over user well-being, potentially trapping young users in cycles of content that can negatively impact their mental health.

The Rabbit Hole Effect: The "rabbit hole" refers to how algorithms can suggest increasingly specific content, potentially leading users down paths of extreme or unhealthy material. This can be particularly worrisome for children who may not have the critical thinking skills to navigate such content.

Age Verification: The EU wants to assess the effectiveness of Meta's age verification methods. Underage users are more susceptible to online dangers, and the EU wants to ensure Meta has robust systems in place to prevent them from accessing the platforms.

Privacy Protections for Minors: The investigation will also delve into how Meta safeguards children's privacy on its platforms. This includes scrutinizing how user data is collected, used, and potentially targeted towards minors.

The EU emphasized its commitment to protecting young people online and this investigation is part of a broader effort to hold social media platforms accountable for the potential negative impacts their services can have on vulnerable users.

Meta has not yet publicly commented on the investigation, but the outcome of the probe could have significant implications for Meta. If the EU finds the company in violation of the DSA, it could face hefty fines and be forced to implement stricter safeguards for children on its platforms.


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