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New Mexico AG again accuses Meta of failing to address child exploitation as several arrested in sting operation

New Mexico AG again takes aim at Meta
After sting operation, New Mexico AG again takes aim at Meta over child exploitation 02:24

Police were waiting at a motel room in Gallup, New Mexico, on Tuesday when 52-year-old Fernando Clyde showed up to meet someone he was expecting to be a 12-year-old girl.

Police body camera video obtained exclusively by CBS News showed Clyde being arrested on charges that he sent unsolicited sexual messages on Facebook Messenger to who he thought was a girl, but was actually an undercover special agent for the New Mexico Justice Department.

"These are individuals who explicitly use this platform to find and target these children," New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez said in a news briefing Wednesday.

The sting was part of "Operation MetaPhile," which also resulted in the arrest Tuesday of 29-year-old Marlon Kellywood at the same motel on similar charges.

The profile photo of the girl was created using artificial intelligence, officials said, and attracted potential predators.

"They initiated a sexual conversation," Torrez told CBS News. "They were sending images, graphic images, of genitalia. They were making really horrific statements about their interest in sex with these children." 

Torrez was critical of how Meta — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg — have handled such security concerns.

"I think it's abundantly clear that Meta and executives like Mr. Zuckerberg don't have any intention of dedicating the kinds of resources necessary to making sure that these platforms are safe," Torrez said. "If they could make this safe on their own, they would've done it by now."

The arrests come after exclusive reporting from CBS News last December revealed New Mexico's separate civil lawsuit against Meta that alleges the company "enabled adults to find, message, and groom minors, soliciting them to sell pictures or participate in pornographic videos."

In a statement to CBS News, Meta said "child exploitation is a horrific crime and we've spent years building technology to combat it and to support law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting the criminals behind it. This is an ongoing fight, where determined criminals evolve their tactics across platforms to try and evade protections."

The company says it uses sophisticated technology and experts, and reports content to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

In 2023, that organization received 36.2 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation online.

"We could have a child in New Mexico, or anywhere in America, go online, go on one of these platforms," Torrez said. "And instead of being an undercover agent, it's actually a child who gets lured by one of these monsters."

The New Mexico Justice Department has issued a guide with tips for parents and children on how to protect themselves against such online threats.  

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