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Meta Grapples with Child Protection Issues on Instagram: EU Warns of Heavy Sanctions

Meta faces potential "heavy sanctions" from the EU if it fails to quickly address child protection issues on Instagram, following a concerning report on the platform's use in distributing child sexual abuse material.

The European Union has issued a stern warning to Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, stating that if the tech giant does not address child protection issues swiftly on Instagram, it could face "heavy sanctions".

This warning follows a disturbing report by the Wall Street Journal that unveiled a network of Instagram accounts being used to link pedophiles with sellers of child sexual abuse material (CSAM). The research, conducted in collaboration with Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, highlighted the extensive use of Instagram in the distribution of CSAM. Stanford's research indicated Instagram’s recommendation algorithms as a significant reason behind its prevalent use for advertising SG-CSAM.

EU's internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, expressed his concern over Twitter, stating that Meta’s voluntary code on child protection appears ineffective. Breton is scheduled to discuss these child safety issues with Mark Zuckerberg at Meta’s HQ later this month. He further emphasized that the EU expects Meta to showcase effective measures by August 25 to comply with the EU's Digital Services Act (DSA).

Failure to adhere to DSA, which outlines the responsibility of platforms in addressing illegal content like CSAM, could lead to fines scaling up to 6% of global annual turnover. Given Instagram and Facebook's designations as very large online platforms (VLOPs), they face additional obligations under the DSA to assess and mitigate systemic risks tied to their platforms.

Despite the stark warnings, Instagram's algorithms have been found to play a crucial role in connecting pedophiles to CSAM sellers. While Meta has claimed to have blocked thousands of child sexualizing hashtags and restricted search terms related to child sex abuse, its efforts remain under scrutiny.