Children Targeted With Sexually Explicit Photos on Facebook and Instagram

Children Targeted With Sexually Explicit Photos on Facebook and Instagram

Data emerging from lawsuits, investigative reports, whistleblowers, and other sources suggest that Facebook and Instagram may be doing more to put children in harm’s way than any other company. 

Internal documents from Meta Platforms Inc., the technology conglomerate Mark Zuckerberg started to parent Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms, estimated that 100,000 children experience sexual harassment daily on social media, including receiving sexually explicit photos from adult users.

An internal study Meta conducted in 2020 found that 500,000 children with Instagram accounts experienced “inappropriate” interactions daily.

Mark Zuckerberg and other Meta execs defend their social media platforms as being safe while touting dozens of tools they created to prevent child sexual abuse and exploitation.

But the problem is only getting worse.

Is Meta doing enough to shield children from sexual predators? The truth paints a troubling picture. 

Are Facebook and Instagram Failing to Protect Kids from Sexual Predators?

A sad and frightened girl sits alone in a dark room, her hands covering her face. She feels lonely, stressed, and scared.

Parents of children and minors throughout the United States have voiced serious concerns about the risks that Facebook and Instagram pose to children.

These platforms offer children a space for social connectivity and expression, yet they also expose children to significant dangers, leaving families to constantly grapple with navigating the Internet safely in the digital age.

  • Inadequate Age Verification: One of the primary complaints is that Facebook and Instagram do not effectively verify the ages of their users. This loophole allows children under the age of 13 to create accounts simply by lying about their age. Without proper age checks, young users are more vulnerable to being exposed to explicit content and contacted with potential sexual predators.
  • Lack of Robust Content Moderation: Parents often criticize Facebook and Instagram for not sufficiently moderating content. Although these platforms have policies against sexually explicit content, enforcement is inconsistent. The vast scope of Facebook leads to situations where children may become exposed to harmful material because it either slips through the cracks or moderators don't remove it quickly enough.
  • Easily Exploited Privacy Settings: Even though both platforms offer privacy settings that restrict who can see a user’s profile or send messages, these settings are often complex and not set by default. Many children and even parents don’t know how to properly configure available protections, making young users more vulnerable to predatory behavior and unwanted contact.
  • Algorithmic Recommendations: Facebook and Instagram use algorithms that curate and recommend content, but these can inadvertently expose children to inappropriate material. For instance, if a child accidentally views sexually explicit content, the algorithm might continue to offer similar content. Furthermore, these algorithms can also suggest new contacts or groups that might not be appropriate, increasing the risk of encountering predators.
  • Encouragement of Risky Behaviors: Parents and guardians express concern that Instagram and Facebook foster a culture that encourages children to share information about themselves and their lives publicly. Features that promote visibility, such as public stories or location tagging, inadvertently expose children to a broader audience, including potential predators.
  • Messaging and Communication Features: Direct messaging features, particularly those that allow messages from strangers or include hidden message requests, are a significant concern. Predators often use these features to initiate contact with children. The lack of default settings that block messages from unknown users makes it easier for unwanted messages to go through.
  • Data Privacy and Security Concerns: Beyond the risk of exposure to inappropriate content and contact with predators, parents worry about how these social media platforms collect, use, and share their children’s personal information. Parents fear anyone with their children’s personal information can use it to manipulate their children.

All of these points reflect a broader anxiety parents have about the digital environment their children inhabit today. 

How Do Sexual Predators Access Children on Facebook and Instagram?

An Apple executive whose 12-year-old child was sexually solicited on Facebook asserted in a lawsuit that Meta is creating a breeding ground where child predators thrive.  

Predators use sophisticated technological and psychological tactics to expose children to explicit content. They often create profiles that appear innocent and harmless or mimic the identities of other children.

By establishing a rapport and trust with their targets, predators essentially gain access to the child and set about grooming them for other malicious purposes.

Facebook and Instagram provide sexual predators with ample information and opportunities to learn about a child and potentially establish a personal connection with them.

Sexual predators gain access to children through these social media platforms through: 

  • Profile Information: Basic profile details such as full name, birthdate, location, and family connections are often publicly visible or visible to friends of friends. Predators can use this information to learn about a user's background, approximate age, and family dynamics.
  • Photos and Videos: Photos and videos often contain metadata such as location and time and might show other identifiable details like school uniforms, car license plates, or nearby landmarks.
  • Friends List: By examining a child’s friends list, predators can identify potential avenues to gain trust through mutual connections or understand the child’s social circle. Photos and videos of the child’s friends also help predators hone in on the information about the child’s geographical location, interests, and other personal information.
  • Check-ins and Location Tags: Children may "check in" to places they frequent, such as schools, parks, and restaurants, or tag these locations in their posts. Check-ins and location tags provide predators with the children’s location and routines. 
  • Groups and Likes: The pages, groups, and types of content a child likes or follows can reveal their interests and habits. Predators can use this information to tailor conversations and establish a false sense of shared interests.
  • Public Posts and Comments: Public posts and interactions (likes, comments, shares) often reveal personal opinions, activities, and even the child’s schedule. Predators can use this to initiate relevant conversations or manipulate the child by echoing their opinions and interests.
  • Security Questions: Information used to answer common security questions (e.g., mother's maiden name, name of first pet, favorite teacher) may be gleaned from the child’s or their family’s profiles, potentially allowing unauthorized access to accounts.
  • Event Participation: Details about events a child attends or shows interest in can also provide a schedule of where they might be at specific times, which is dangerous if such information falls into the wrong hands.

Dangers of Child Predation on Social Media

A curious and smart little girl is typing on a laptop alone. This clever child is using the computer online without permission, accessing forbidden internet content despite parental protections.

Social media’s prevalence has opened new avenues for child predators, making platforms like Facebook and Instagram real danger zones for young users. 

  • Sexual Extortion (Sextortion): Sextortion involves manipulating or coercing children into producing sexually explicit material or performing sexual acts. Predators often groom children by building trust and emotional connections, gradually introducing sexual content into conversations, and then pressuring or blackmailing children to engage in such behaviors. The impacts are devastating, often leading to long-term psychological trauma and even suicide.
  • Abduction: Predators can use Facebook and Instagram to find and groom potential victims for abduction. By learning personal details and whereabouts from profiles, a predator can plan and execute abductions with frightening precision. The dangers are particularly acute when children disclose their daily routines, locations, and other personal information.
  • Sex Trafficking: Traffickers often use social media to recruit children into sex trafficking rings under false pretenses, such as promises of a modeling career, a romantic relationship, or a better life. They exploit the anonymity and accessibility of social media to target vulnerable children, manipulate them into dependency, and then coerce them into sexual servitude.
  • Privacy Breaches: Children may not grasp the implications of sharing personal information online. Their online activities can lead to privacy breaches that leak personal information. Sensitive information about the child can unintentionally become public or end up in the hands of predators.  
  • Exposure to Inappropriate Content: Sexual predators often use Facebook and Instagram to send children sexually explicit materials and capture their attention. Predators escalate the interactions once they connect with a child, coaxing children to send explicit photos of themselves, meet with the predator, or some other action that can devastate a child.
  • Mental Health Issues: The dynamics of social media, including the pressure for likes, comparisons with others, and the pursuit of an idealized self-image, can contribute to various mental health issues in children. These include anxiety, depression, body image issues, and social withdrawal.

Don't wait any longer, call 866-535-9515 or submit your case for review today!

Red Flags Your Child May Be Communicating With a Sexual Predator

Online Predators - individuals who commit sexual abuse that occurs on the Internet. (Text concept button on keyboard)

Children communicating with sexual predators often exhibit noticeable changes in behavior and mood that can serve as warning signs.

Here are some key indicators:

  1. Increased Secrecy Around Devices: Children may become overly protective of their phones or computers, reacting defensively or with anger when someone else tries to use them or asks about their activities online.
  2. Changes in Device Use: They might use their devices more frequently or at odd hours, possibly waking up in the middle of the night to respond to messages. On the other hand, they might suddenly lose interest in their devices, especially if a predator threatens or frightens them.
  3. Introduction of New, Older Friends: They may talk about new friends who are significantly older or show an unusual interest in friendships with adults.
  4. Withdrawal from Regular Activities: A child might withdraw from activities they previously enjoyed, lose interest in spending time with friends or family, and become more isolated in their social interactions.
  5. Unexplained Gifts or Money: Predators often send gifts or money to groom their victims. If a child suddenly has new possessions without a clear explanation or seems to have extra money, this can raise a red flag.
  6. Use of Sexual Language: Exposure to inappropriate content might lead them to use sexual language that is not age-appropriate or show an unusually advanced understanding of sexual topics.
  7. Mood Swings and Emotional Instability: They may exhibit unexplained changes in mood, such as bouts of anger, sadness, or irritability, or they might appear anxious or depressed.
  8. Changes in Appearance: A child might start paying more attention to their appearance or alter it significantly, potentially in response to comments or demands from a predator.
  9. Avoidance of Discussions About Online Activities: They might become unusually evasive when asked about their activities online, change the subject quickly, or refuse to talk about what they do on the Internet.

Recognizing these indications can help you intervene before your child becomes too deeply entangled in a potentially dangerous situation.

Is Meta Doing Anything About Child Endangerment?

There is no doubt that Meta executives and developers know about the risks Facebook and Instagram present to children. Internal company communications and records produced in a spate of lawsuits show some employees continually raising concerns about underage users and the dangers they face. 

Meta has said it produced over 30 tools to help protect children and their families, but the results speak for themselves.

No indications exist showing that these tools prevent children younger than 13 from creating a presence on Facebook and Instagram, nor are they sufficient to stop sexual predators from contacting children, learning about them, and potentially connecting with them.

A lawsuit 33 states filed against Meta in 2023 accuses the company of refusing to remove accounts started by children under 13 and says it continues to collect the children’s personal information without their parents’ knowledge or consent.

Predators continue to find ways to get around the enhanced privacy settings Meta implemented to protect minors, including creating fake profiles or using hacked accounts. Minors themselves, not fully comprehending the dangers, can relax or turn off security settings themselves.

If your child has fallen victim to a sex crime through Facebook or Instagram, or you believe your child is at risk, you should first take immediate action to protect them by contacting law enforcement.

You want the proper law enforcement officials to thoroughly investigate the unlawful or suspicious activity. You should also report sexually abusive activity through the Facebook and Instagram Help Centers.

Take whatever necessary action will shield your child from explicit materials and offenders, including suspending or eliminating their social media accounts and restricting or monitoring their use of computers and smartphones.

Explore your legal options. The attorney network at Legal Lawsuit News has the knowledge and resources to bring challenging cases against large corporations like Meta.

Our team is prepared to advocate fiercely for your family's rights and pursue the compensation you deserve. We understand the complexity of social media child sex abuse cases and have the resources to stand up to major tech companies like Meta.

Don't hesitate to reach out for a free consultation to discuss how we can help you and your child find justice. Contact Legal Lawsuit News today at (866) 535-9515.


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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