EU initiates probe into Meta over alleged harmful impact on children

The European Union started an official investigation on Thursday into Facebook and Instagram, owned by Meta, amid concerns that the platforms are fostering addictive behavior in young users.

Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, expressed skepticism about Meta’s efforts to comply with the obligations outlined in the DSA (Digital Services Act) to minimize the potential adverse effects on the physical and mental well-being of youth in Europe.

In Thursday’s announcement, the European Commission, the EU’s tech regulator, said it suspected the platforms’ systems “may stimulate behavioural addictions in children”.

Another issue the commission raised is the so-called “rabbit hole” effect — which occurs when users are fed related content based on an algorithm, in some cases leading to more dangerous content.

“We are not convinced that it 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,” the EU’s internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, said of Meta.

“We are sparing no effort to protect our children,” he added.

The commission is also worried that Meta’s age-verification tools may not be “proportionate and effective”.

The DSA has strict rules to protect children and ensure their privacy and security online, and the EU fears Meta might not be doing enough to tackle these obligations.

The EU stressed in a statement that the “opening of formal proceedings does not prejudge its outcome”.