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The European Commission initiated proceedings against Facebook. An expert on the “rabbit hole” effect.

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The European Commission has initiated formal proceedings against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, over suspicions that the systems and algorithms used therein may lead to children becoming addicted to these platforms. – We are a product for those large companies that have social networking sites. They sell us, our attention to advertisers and everyone wants us to look at the ads for as long as possible, said Piotr Konieczny from the Niebezpiecznik portal on TVN24.

European Commission is concerned that both Facebook and Instagram systems, including their algorithms, may stimulate addictive behavior in children. In addition, the EC is also concerned about the age assurance and verification methods introduced by Meta.

Piotr Konieczny from Niebezpiecznik emphasized in an interview with TVN24 that the Internet poses a threat to both children and adults, because the algorithms of the largest technology platforms are created in such a way as to attract users regardless of age and keep them glued to the screen for as long as possible within a given website or application.

– Contrary to appearances, we are a product for those large companies that have social networking sites. They sell us, our attention to advertisers and everyone wants us to look at the ads for as long as possible, Konieczny said.

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As the expert emphasized, this is related to the “rabbit hole” effect, i.e. “dragging and trapping the user's attention within a certain topic.”

– Each of us has experienced this situation at some point. You come across something interesting, click on one link, maybe go to another source describing data or an unknown issue, and then click on subsequent links. We are bombarded with material, both video and audio, related to this particular issue. The Internet is full of connections. Unfortunately, content on the Internet today is created by everyone. This is not a library where the content presented was prepared by people who have something to say on a given topic, he said.

EU regulations and user safety

Referring to the European Commission's proceedings, Konieczny said: “I hope this is not the last time, because we all see that there is a lot to be done in the context of user safety and comfort of use and exchange of content.”

– There is a conspiracy theory that Facebook turns a blind eye and isn't as restrictive as it could be when it comes to the products it monetizes, presenting content to users. This is a pathology that must be fought. In the case of adults, this may lead to a loss of money, savings or a change in political views. However, in the case of children, it is extremely dangerous because they are young people whose vision of the world is still being shaped. Bombarding these people with certain types of content, as researchers have shown, can often influence how young people perceive the world and see themselves. And it may lead to events that, unfortunately, will be very dangerous for these people – warns the interlocutor.

Age verification on Facebook and Instagram

Konieczny added that age verification in social media is declarative, which means that no entity verifies the data entered there. – There is no age verification, and the EU Digital Services Act even includes a very important provision stating that age assessment does not necessarily require collecting additional information about minors. The way I read it is that you cannot, or at least should not, collect documents or order photos to be taken for the purpose of processing data about minors, he said.

According to Konieczny, any form of age verification can be bypassed. As he emphasized, “the point is for it to work more precisely.” – If someone sets up an account and lies about being an adult, and a moment later a broadcast is made from this account, when we see that the face of the main character, the person streaming, does not match the declared age, then perhaps some protective mechanisms should be activated here “- he explained.

– There is also an important aspect of the EU Act. The point is not to necessarily block these underage users. Because if I remember correctly, users from the age of 13 can use Facebook. The idea is that even for 13-year-olds, until they are adults, i.e. legally able to make decisions for themselves, a form of contact should be implemented that will impose all possible restrictions. It's about posting only to your closest friends or setting privacy settings so that profile advertising is not possible, he concluded.

Main photo source: Tint Media/Shutterstock

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