The European Union investigates Facebook and Instagram for generating addiction in minors

The EU opened an investigation into two of Meta social media platforms to determine whether the company "complies with the Digital Services Act."

Given the serious mental health problems that social networks can cause in children, the European Union (EU) reported this Thursday that it has launched an investigation into Meta Platforms, Inc., to determine whether two of its main subsidiaries, Instagram and Facebook, generate addiction in minors.

Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton announced the EU's decision. Breton posted on social media, "We are not convinced that Meta has done enough to comply with the Digital Services Act (DSA) obligations - to mitigate the risks of negative effects to the physical and mental health of young Europeans on its platforms Facebook and Instagram."

The goal of DSA, a regulation that Breton says went into effect last August, is "to prevent illegal and harmful activities online and the spread of disinformation" and "ensure user safety, protect fundamental rights and create a fair and open online platform environment."

With the claim to "mitigate the risks of negative effects to the physical and mental health of young Europeans," the senior official refers to the measures promoted by Meta in January. The company updated its content control policy with more than 30 tools to guarantee the physical and mental integrity of young people who use its apps.

To be more precise, Breton listed the three points that led the EU to open its investigation: "The potential addictive and rabbit-hole effects of the platforms; the effectiveness of their age verification tools; and the level of privacy afforded to minors in the functioning of recommender systems."

The U.S. has already launched investigations against Facebook and Instagram for being addictive

The EU's decision to investigate Meta Platforms and its subsidiaries for generating addiction in minors is nothing new. In recent months, the company chaired and directed by Mark Zuckerberg received a class action lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of 33 states, which alleged that Meta spreads content and apps with addictive effects on minors.

In March 2023, Arkansas officials backed by Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders accused Meta – and TikTok – of “hooking young users.” They filed three lawsuits and relied on the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, ensuring that both used fraudulent strategies to attract minors with content that was harmful to them.

The EU tightens the reins on Meta Platforms

The fact that Facebook or Instagram are tools that generate addiction in minors is not the only reason why the EU decided to investigate the company led by Mark Zuckerberg.

At the end of March, the European Commission, one of the seven high institutions of the EU, announced it was launching an investigation into three of the five technology giants - including Meta Platforms - for allegedly violating competition rules.