Meta has “threatened to delete” important data from test accounts referenced in the state of New Mexico’s bombshell lawsuit alleging underage Facebook and Instagram users are exposed to child predators, according to a new court filing.
New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez said in the Monday filing that Meta has “disabled” several test accounts that investigators used to probe the popular apps.
Torrez is seeking a court order blocking Meta “from deleting any information associated with accounts referenced in the complaint or associated with accounts against which Meta took action as a result of information in the complaint,” the filing said.
“The state brings this motion to seek an order requiring Meta to honor its data preservation obligations under New Mexico law,” the filing said.
Attorneys also cited New Mexico state court precedent against the destruction of relevant evidence.
The stunning lawsuit, filed last week, said the test accounts — which used AI-generated photos that purportedly portrayed children aged 14 or younger — were bombarded with adult sex content and disgusting outreach from alleged child predators, including “pictures and videos of genitalia” and an offer of a six-figure payment to star in a porn video.
Meta has since disabled the accounts, which, according to the motion, has hindered the ongoing investigation by preventing officials from accessing key information, “including usernames of accounts with whom the investigators interacted and search histories or other information concerning those accounts.”
It is not clear whether Meta shut down the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the alleged child predators.
The Post has reached out to Meta for comment.
Torrez’s office did not comment on Monday’s filing.
New Mexico alleged that one test account with the name “Issa Bee,” which claimed to be a 13-year-old girl living in Albuquerque, gained more than 6,700 followers on Facebook who were mostly “males between the ages of 18- and 40-years old.
The account received multiple disturbing sexual propositions, including one from an adult user who allegedly “openly promised her $5,000 a week to be his ‘sugar baby,’”
The state said Meta notified them on Dec. 7 — one day after the lawsuit was filed – that it was disabling the test accounts.
The social media giant took the action “even though the accounts at issue had operated for months without action by Meta, and even though investigators had previously reported illicit and unlawful content to Meta through its reporting channels,” the filing said.
When investigators tried to log in, they received a message alerting them that the accounts had been “disabled.”
The message notes that the accounts have 30 days to request a review before they were “permanently disabled.”
According to the filing, state attorneys reached out on the same day asking for confirmation that Meta would “preserve all data associated” with the accounts.
Meta’s attorney purportedly responded by stating the company was “taking reasonable steps to identify the accounts referenced in the complaint and, once identified, to preserve relevant data and information regarding those accounts.”
The state said Meta did not respond to a request for more details about what data from the accounts it deemed to be “relevant” and what data it would not preserve.
“Given Meta’s refusal to preserve ‘all data’ associated with accounts referenced in the complaint, a court order is necessary to preserve this key evidence for trial,” the filing said.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is named as a defendant in New Mexico’s lawsuit.
State officials allege that Zuckerberg’s product design decisions have played a critical role in placing underage users at risk.
Meta has yet to specifically respond to the suit’s allegations.
“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,” Meta said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal after the suit was filed.
The New Mexico suit is separate from a sweeping lawsuit filed by 33 state attorneys general in October.
Those states allege that Meta purposely made its apps addictive to ensnare young users and collected personal data from underage users in violation of federal law.
Meta has denied wrongdoing.
This story originally Appeared on NYPost