As Zuckerberg’s Facebook Fosters Child Abuse and Exploitation, Investors Start to Speak up
Posted on 05/10/2021
U.S. public pensions and sovereign wealth funds like Norway Government Pension Fund Global are major shareholders in social media giant Facebook, which owns Whatsapp and Instagram. Large tech companies armed with cash, lobbyists, and influence are able to get away with possible criminal usage on their platforms. In 2019 there were nearly 17 million reported cases of online child sexual abuse material (CSAM), 94% of which stemmed from Facebook, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. As the world’s largest social media company and the largest facilitator of reported child sex abuse online–Facebook’s actions will, for better or worse, have a major impact on global child safety. Facebook is by far and away the world’s largest source of online child sexual abuse materials. The company has been harshly criticized by governments, law enforcement, and child protection organizations for its insufficient efforts to prevent or stop CSAM. Platforms like Facebook can be used by sexual predators to contact children. Facebook requires everyone to be at least 13 years old before they can create an account (in some jurisdictions, this age limit may be higher). Snapchat also has a 13-age-minimum policy.
At a congressional hearing in March 2021, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that social media is harmful to children.
For example, Fox17 reported on May 8, 2021, a 22-year-old Murfreesboro man faces 53 charges of sexual activities involving girls ages 11 to 14, according to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, in which he used SnapChat and Instagram to reach out to children.
Norway Government Pension Fund Global and the California State Teachers Retirement System voted in favor of Facebook Item 10: Report on Online Child Sexual Exploitation at the May 27, 2020 meeting. However, Zuckerberg controls approximately 60% of the Facebook vote. Other large institutional shareholders in Facebook include Vanguard, BlackRock, and Fidelity Investment Management and Research. Other direct holders of Facebook on the public fund side include Swiss National Bank, California Public Employees Retirement System, and the California State Teachers Retirement System.
On May 10, 2021, 44 Attorneys General in the United States urged Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13. “The business model of almost all social media platforms is to get the user to be engaged on the screen for as long as possible. This allows companies like Instagram to accumulate extensive personal data on every user to be sold to advertisers. The fact that they now want to focus on collecting the data of children is very troubling,” stated Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson.
In the letter, the attorneys general express various concerns over Facebook’s proposal, including:
Research indicating that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children;
Rapidly worsening accounts of cyberbullying on Instagram;
Use of the platform by predators to target children;
Facebook’s unstable record in protecting the welfare of children on its platforms; and
Children’s lack of capacity to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including advertising, inappropriate content, and relationships with strangers.
The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) are the U.S. Senate and House bills that as the FOSTA-SESTA package became law on April 11, 2018, signed by President Donald Trump. Some time later Facebook banned the U.S. president from its platform. This new legislation made it easier for users of Electronic Service Providers (ESPs) to sue platforms when they knowingly facilitated child sex trafficking and exploitation.