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Instagram and Facebook subscriptions are a new focus of child safety demand| GuyWhoKnowsThings

New Mexico's attorney general, who last year sued Meta alleging that it failed to protect children from sexual predators and had made false claims about the safety of its platforms, announced Monday that his office would examine how paid subscription services of the company attract predators.

Attorney General Raúl Torrez said he had formally requested documentation from the social media company about subscriptions on Facebook and Instagram, which are frequently available on children's accounts managed by parents.

Instagram does not allow users under the age of 13, but accounts that focus exclusively on children are allowed as long as they are managed by an adult. The New York Times published research on Thursday about influential girls on the platform, reporting that so-called mom-run accounts charge their followers up to $19.99 a month for additional photos, as well as chat sessions and other extras.

The Times found that adult men subscribe to the accounts, including some who actively participate in forums where people talk about girls in sexual terms.

“This deeply disturbing pattern of behavior puts children at risk and persists despite a wave of lawsuits and congressional investigations,” Torrez said in a statement.

Torrez filed a complaint in December accusing Meta of allowing harmful activity between adults and minors on Facebook and Instagram and failing to detect and remove such activity when it was reported. The allegations were based, in part, on findings from accounts created by Torrez's office, including one for a fictitious 14-year-old girl who was offered $180,000 to appear in a pornographic video.

Although Instagram rules prohibit users under 18 from offering subscriptions, accounts run by mothers circumvent that restriction.

“I found the New York Times reporting on the creation of a market funded by child predators deeply disturbing,” Torrez said. “After reading the Times story, I sent Meta a new document request based on the alarming findings.”

Instagram introduced subscriptions in 2022. The added feature came as social media companies compete fiercely to attract people involved in the so-called creator economy. Instagram doesn't take a cut of subscription revenue, but it benefits when influencers and other popular users choose the platform to build their follower base.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Meta staff members had raised the alarm about the launch of the subscription service. The article cited anonymous Meta employees saying that some parents knew they were producing content for “the sexual gratification of other adults.”

Some of these accounts include outtakes, behind-the-scenes photos, and other “exclusive content” in their subscription offers, which parents see as a good way for influential girls to make extra money. Many mothers told The Times that they spent countless hours preventing “creepy” men from following the accounts, which many continue to post even after their daughters become teenagers; Others said that having a large following was beneficial in promoting their daughters on Instagram.

A group of more than 40 state attorneys general also sued Meta in state and federal courts last year alleging that its products were harmful to teenagers and young adults and that the company was aware of such harms.

A Meta spokesman, Andy Stone, in a statement Monday, did not address Mr. Torrez's new request for information. He reiterated previous responses to legal action against the company.

“Child exploitation is a horrible crime and online predators are determined criminals,” he said. “We use sophisticated technology, hire child safety experts, report content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and share information and tools with other companies and law enforcement authorities, including state attorneys general, to help root out predators.”

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