The EU launched an investigation into Meta’s Facebook and Instagram on Thursday (16 May) over the potentially addictive effects on children.

Meta’s social media products may “exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors” to create dependencies that could harm their mental well-being, EU regulators said. 

The investigation comes as the EU looks to crack down on popular social media sites such as TikTok and Instagram to put better protections in place for children. 

As part of Europe’s Digital Services Act (DSA), Big Tech companies could face fines of up to 6% of their annual turnover if found to breaking regulations.

“The Commission is concerned that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate behavioural addictions in children, as well as create so-called ‘rabbit-hole effects’,” the EU said announcing the investigation.

Regulators will also investigate if Meta is doing enough to monitor how old users signing up for an account are, and how it recommends certain types of content to children. 

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“In addition, the Commission is also concerned about age-assurance and verification methods put in place by Meta”, the statement said.

Meta claims it has “spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies” to protect children.

“This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing details of our work with the European Commission,” the tech giant said.

In April, the EU claimed Meta had failed to tackle disinformation and deceptive advertising on Facebook and Instragram, and announced a major investigation into the company’s compliance with the DSA.

The investigation comes amid concerns over disinformation in the lead-up to the European elections vote in June. 

The European Commission has raised concerns about misinformation originating from Russia, China and Iran, as well as political parties in the EU trying to attract voters with deceptive advertising.