Meta Platform (NASDAQ:META) has set up a task force to probe and address the child exploitation concerns on its Instagram platform raised by the investigations conducted by the Wall Street Journal and researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The investigations revealed that Instagram’s algorithms not only host illicit child-sex content but also promote them by connecting pedophiles.
Illicit Content on Instagram
The researchers found that Instagram allowed users to search explicit hashtags that enabled them to connect to accounts that used the terms to advertise child-sex material for sale. The promotion of such underage-sex content violates rules established by the company and is illegal under federal law. Using hashtags associated with minor sex, the Stanford Internet Observatory found 405 sellers on Instagram selling what researchers labeled as “self-generated” child-sex abuse material.
Meta has acknowledged the issues within its enforcement operations and expects its internal task force to address the matter. The company has removed 27 pedophile networks over the past two years and plans to take down more. Further, after the Wall Street Journal reached Meta, the company has blocked thousands of objectionable hashtags on the platform that sexualize minors.
Alex Stamos, the head of the Stanford Internet Observatory and Meta’s former chief security officer, said, “That a team of three academics with limited access could find such a huge network should set off alarms at Meta.” He added that the company possesses far more effective tools to trace pedophile networks on its platform than outsiders can.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Thursday that European Union industry chief Thierry Breton will meet Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg on June 23, demanding the company to immediately tackle content targeting children, as Meta’s voluntary child system seems ineffective.
Is Meta Stock a Buy, Hold, or Sell?
Despite certain data privacy and regulatory concerns, Wall Street remains bullish on Meta. Of the 35 top Wall Street analysts covering the stock, 31 have a Buy rating and four have a Hold rating. The average price target of $287.13 implies nearly 9% upside.
On Wednesday, Meta analyst Brian Fitzgerald initiated coverage on Meta stock with a price target of $276.