Facebook users, Instagram reels

Mark Zuckerberg’s tranquility was shattered as a disturbing scandal emerged, exposing the unsettling way Instagram Reels served explicit content of children.

Instagram reels

A Wall Street Journal‘s report revealed that test accounts, focused solely on teen gymnastics and cheerleading influencers, were recommended next to reels featuring doubtful adult contents and explicit child content. A parallel test by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection yielded similar results.

Even more troubling, there were unacceptable infiltrated ads, raising concerns about brand safety. Meta however said it recently launched brand-safety tools and a task force dedicated to detecting suspicious users.

Lawsuits piling up

In a statement to Business Insider, Meta emphasized its commitment to eliminating such content from its platforms, citing aggressive investment and quarterly reporting on content prevalence. The company dismissed the Journal’s test as a “manufactured experience,” asserting it did not represent real users’ daily experiences.

The Instagram reels scandal comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by 33 states against Meta, accusing the company of neglecting warnings about potential harm to young girls and knowingly allowing millions of accounts opened by children under 13 to remain active.

A separate Massachusetts lawsuit alleges Meta ignored efforts to enhance teen well-being on its apps. The lawsuit indicates that Instagram executives were aware of the negative impact on users’ mental health.

‘Existential question’

Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, has aptly termed this crisis an “existential question” for the platform. The scandal has already taken a toll on Meta, with major advertisers like Match and Bumble reportedly canceling ads in response to the Journal’s report.

Meta assured its clients that it was conducting an investigation and committed to covering the costs of brand-safety auditing services. This would help determine the frequency of a company’s ads appearing alongside content deemed unacceptable by Meta.

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Cover Photo: Pexels

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