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Today, the Commission initiated formal procedures to assess whether Meta, the provider of Facebook and Instagram, may have violated the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas related to the protection of minors.

The Commission is concerned that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate addictive behaviors in children, as well as create the so-called “rabbit holes”. Furthermore, the Commission is also concerned about the age verification and assurance methods implemented by Meta.

The commencement of the procedure is based on a preliminary analysis of the risk assessment report sent by Meta in September 2023, Meta’s responses to the Commission’s formal requests for information (regarding the protection of minors and the risk assessment methodology), publicly available reports, and the Commission’s own analysis.

The current procedures cover the following areas:

Meta’s compliance with the DSA obligations regarding the assessment and mitigation of risks caused by the design of online interfaces of Facebook and Instagram, which may exploit the vulnerabilities and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behavior and/or enhance the so-called “rabbit hole” phenomenon. Such assessment is required to address potential risks to the exercise of the fundamental right to physical and mental well-being of children as well as to respect their rights.

Meta’s compliance with the DSA requirements in relation to mitigation measures to prevent minors’ access to inappropriate content, particularly age verification tools used by Meta, which may not be reasonable, proportional, and effective.

Meta’s compliance with the DSA obligations to establish appropriate and proportional measures to ensure a high level of privacy, security, and safety for minors, especially regarding the default privacy settings for minors as part of the design and operation of their recommendation systems.

If proven, these failures would constitute violations of Articles 28, 34, and 35 of the DSA. The commencement of the formal procedure does not prejudge its outcome and does not prejudge any other procedure that the Commission may decide to initiate for any other behavior that may constitute a violation under the DSA.

Next steps

The Commission will now prioritize in-depth investigations and continue to collect evidence, for example by sending additional requests for information, conducting interviews, or inspections.

The initiation of formal procedures empowers the Commission to take further enforcement actions, such as taking interim measures and non-compliance decisions. The Commission is also authorized to accept the commitments undertaken by Meta to address the issues raised in the procedure.