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New Mexico AG seeks order for Meta to preserve accounts used in child abuse suit

New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez sues Meta for shutting down law enforcement accounts investigating minors' access to inappropriate content. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI
New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez sues Meta for shutting down law enforcement accounts investigating minors' access to inappropriate content. File Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 22 (UPI) -- New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez accused Meta of disabling accounts his office used as part of an investigation into alleged child sexual abuse and trafficking on its social media platforms.

In a filing, Torrez asked a judge to order the social media company to stop deleting information related to the accounts after his office said it received a notice from Meta a day after the initial lawsuit was filed informing investigators that the test accounts would be "permanently disabled."

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The filing added that while it was unclear whether "'permanently disabl[ing]' an account is the functional equivalent to deleting the account," the state believes that is the case, citing a California case involving another social media company in which "locked" accounts "were inadvertently deleted by the company's automated processes."

"Meta's disabling of these accounts prevents the state from continuing its investigation into Meta's activities," the Attorney General said in the filing.

It added that Meta had informed the office it would only preserve evidence that was deemed relevant to the lawsuit.

In response to the filing, a Meta spokesperson said the company would "of course preserve data consistent with our legal obligations.

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In the Dec. 5 lawsuit against Meta, the Attorney General's office alleged it used the decoy accounts posing as children 14 and younger on Facebook and Instagram and found that the social media platforms allegedly served the accounts "a stream of egregious, sexually explicit images" despite the account expressing no interest in such content.

It added that the platforms also allowed adults to contact the accounts and "press children into providing sexually explicit pictures of themselves or participate in pornographic videos" and allowed users to find, share and sell "an enormous volume of child pornography."

It also alleged the accounts were recommended to join "unmoderated Facebook groups devoted to facilitating commercial sex" and allowed a fictitious mother to offer her 13-year-old daughter for sale to sex traffickers and allowed her to create a professional page to share revenue from advertising .

"Meta knowingly exposes children to the twin dangers of sexual exploitation and mental health harm," Torrez said, "Meta's conduct has turned New Mexico children who are on its platforms into victims."

Meta denied the claims made in the original suit, as spokesperson Nkechi Nneji outlined its efforts to combat child sexual abuse and trafficking.

"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, including state attorneys general, to help root out predators," Nneji said.

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