Facebook acknowledged on Tuesday that a flaw in Messenger Kids allowed children to chat with people their parents had not approved, contrary to the rules established by the messaging system in its version for children.
In recent days, the social network has begun to disable the relevant conversation groups and warn thousands of parents that their children have been able to interact with strangers.
Messenger Kids is the children’s version of Facebook messaging, without advertising or transactions. Launched at the end of 2017 in the United States, and in other countries in 2018, it allows the company to attract 6 to 12 year olds, theoretically banned from social networking until they are 13 years old.
Control remains in the hands of the parents, who must approve all contacts. Children cannot do a search for “friends”.
“We recently informed some parents of Messenger Kids users of a technical error we detected that affects a limited number of conversation groups,” Facebook said.
The information was revealed by The Verge, an online media specialized in technology. The article notes that the social network had not taken the trouble to officially communicate on this bug, simply deactivating “discreetly” the groups concerned and notifying parents via a standard message.
At its launch, Facebook promoted this version of Messenger as a safe environment for children to communicate with their friends under the supervision of their parents, instead of surfing online without protection, at the risk of being exposed to malicious people.
The problem comes as Facebook struggles on all fronts to regain the trust of users and authorities after numerous data protection scandals.
The group is subject to numerous investigations into its privacy and user data practices. In the United States, according to several media reports, it will have to pay a record $5 billion fine imposed by a regulator for breaches in these areas.