New Mexico Sues Facebook and Instagram
A devastating failure to protect children. That’s how New Mexico’s top legal officer characterized Meta Platforms’ stewardship of Facebook and Instagram, as he sued the social media giant and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week.
Attorney General Raúl Torrez dropped a bombshell civil lawsuit Wednesday alleging Facebook and Instagram created “prime locations” for child sexual predators. He said the platforms enabled the distribution of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and the trafficking of minors through unfair and deceptive practices.
The lawsuit follows an undercover investigation that reportedly revealed children being exposed to sexually explicit content, experiencing sexual coercion, and the rampant sale of child sex abuse images on the apps.
“Child exploitation is a horrific crime and online predators are determined criminals,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. However, the company defended its use of “sophisticated technology” and partnerships with child safety experts to “root out predators.”
Nonetheless, the New Mexico AG’s office found the measures lack teeth and the problems persist unchecked.
Easy Prey for Predators
The central allegation is that Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms drive users — including children — to ever more extreme and dangerous content. This dynamic, combined with ineffective age verification, allows predators easy access to and control over young users.
The lawsuit states that “certain child exploitative content” appears at rates 10 times higher on Facebook and Instagram compared with adult platforms like Pornhub and OnlyFans. Yet Meta fails to curb this toxic spread or prevent banned users from opening new accounts and resuming their predatory behavior.
“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,” AG Torrez said.
He argued that in this environment — where recommendations point users toward graphic content while barred participants slip back in — sexual predators have room to stalk, manipulate and abuse New Mexico’s children.
AG Torrez said this not only jeopardizes kids’ safety, but also their mental health and violates the public’s trust.
A Coordinated Legal Response
New Mexico’s lawsuit asserts that through these practices, Meta and Zuckerberg violated the state’s Unfair Practices Act. The suit outlines four counts:
- Engaging in unfair trade practices that enabled the distribution of child sexual abuse material in New Mexico.
- Facilitating the online enticement, recruitment and coercion of children in New Mexico by sexual predators.
- Contributing to danger to the health and safety of New Mexico children.
- Taking advantage of the lack of knowledge, ability, experience, or capacity of children to make decisions.
The legal action follows similar suits filed last October by a coalition of 42 state attorneys general. Those focused on harms to young people’s mental health and wellbeing, rather than sexual predation.
Demands for Comprehensive Reform
The lawsuit calls for civil penalties plus reform measures to verify users’ ages, improve predator detection tools, and eliminate features that drive engagement with child sexual abuse content.
“The sights and sounds of children being sexually abused and sold for sex are being live-streamed to sexual predators around the globe through Facebook and Instagram,” AG Torrez said, arguing that self-regulation has failed.
This latest lawsuit turns up the heat considerably on Meta to fundamentally transform key aspects of its platforms — especially recommendation algorithms — to offer better protection for kids. Siding with the AG’s assessment, child welfare advocates say substantial reforms are the only path to redemption for the social media leaders.
The outcome of the court contest could have dramatic implications for Instagram, Facebook and tech platforms far beyond New Mexico’s borders. Victims’ advocates will follow the case closely, hoping it sparks overdue change to prevent further exploitation of society’s most vulnerable members online.