‘Worse than Pornhub and OnlyFans’ — New Mexico AG Sues Meta Platforms and Mark Zuckerberg Following Undercover Operation Involving Minors

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In a major legal offensive aimed at combating online risks to minors, New Mexico Democrat Attorney General Raúl Torrez took decisive action against tech giant Meta Platforms, Inc., its CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and associated entities, including Instagram, LLC and Facebook Holdings, LLC.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, represents a bold effort to curb the exploitation of children on social media platforms.

“Our investigation into Meta’s social media platforms demonstrates that they are not safe spaces for children but rather prime locations for predators to trade child pornography and solicit minors for sex,” Attorney General Torrez said in a statement.

“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 and I will hold companies — and their executives — accountable whenever they put profits ahead of children’s safety,” he added.

During the past several months, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office launched an undercover operation posing as minors under 14 on Meta’s platforms. This sting operation led to disturbing findings, where it was discovered that:

  • Proactively served and directed the underage users a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images — even when the child has expressed no interest in this content
  • Enabled dozens of adults to find, contact, and press children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos.
  • Recommended that the children join unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex.
  • Allowed Facebook and Instagram users to find, share, and sell an enormous volume of child pornography.
  • Allowed a fictitious mother to offer her 13-year-old daughter for sale to sex traffickers and to create a professional page to allow her daughter to share revenue from advertising.
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AG Torrez expressed grave concerns about the knowledge and inaction of Meta executives like Mark Zuckerberg, emphasizing that they are fully aware of the potential dangers their platforms present to young users.

“Mr. Zuckerberg and other Meta executives are aware of the serious harm their products can pose to young users, and yet they have failed to make sufficient changes to their platforms that would prevent the sexual exploitation of children,” Torrez added.

“Despite repeated assurances to Congress and the public that they can be trusted to police themselves, it is clear that Meta’s executives continue to prioritize engagement and ad revenue over the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society,” he added.

Investigators were startled to find that Facebook and Instagram were ridden with child exploitive content at rates surpassing even that on adult platforms like Pornhub and OnlyFans. The complaint, which has to exclude an array of graphic content due to its disturbing nature, begins with a stark black box warning concerning the sexually explicit materials that it does include as evidence.

You can read the 228-page complaint here.

This is not the first time that Facebook has come under fire for being a haven for sexual predators.

Earlier this year, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody issued a formal call for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the State’s Human Trafficking Council. This follows a revealing report that highlights Meta platforms – Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger – as the most frequently used by human traffickers.

Florida’s Statewide Council on Human Trafficking revealed shocking results in a recent survey of Florida law enforcement agencies. The Florida Legislature had mandated this investigation to assess the prevalence and impact of social media platforms’ role in human trafficking within the state.

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Law enforcement agencies were asked to report instances since 2019 where social media had been employed to facilitate human trafficking, including victim recruitment, trafficking operations, or victim control. Agencies were also asked to identify the specific platforms used.

According to the letter from Moody, out of 271 reported instances of social media usage in human trafficking, 146, or over 53%, were linked to Meta platforms – Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. This figure is dramatically higher than that of the second most-used platform, Snapchat, which was implicated in just 19 cases.

According to the 2022 Federal Human Trafficking Report, Facebook was the top platform used for recruitment of human trafficking victims from 2019 to 2022, with Facebook and Instagram combined representing 60% of the top ten platforms cited in the study.

In a joint investigation conducted by The Wall Street Journal and researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it was revealed that Instagram, the social media platform owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is serving as a hub to “connect and promote a vast network of accounts openly devoted to the commission and purchase of underage-sex content.”

Unlike traditional forums and file-transfer services associated with illicit content, Instagram’s algorithms actively encourage and recommend such activities, effectively connecting pedophiles and guiding them to content sellers, WSJ reported.

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In 2021, the Texas Supreme Court addressed a case in which victims of sex trafficking sued Facebook, claiming “negligence, negligent undertaking, gross negligence, and products liability based on Facebook’s alleged failure to warn of, or take adequate measures to prevent, sex trafficking on its internet platforms.”

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Source material can be found at this site.

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