Twitter is “taking child exploitation seriously,” the platform’s toughest critic on child sexual exploitation (CSE) told Teslarati in an exclusive interview.
Eliza Bleu is a survivor of human trafficking and an advocate for victims, especially children. Bleu has been putting pressure on Twitter for several years to remove CSE material at scale, and up until Elon Musk’s acquisition, Twitter has been slow to remove most of the content. She told Teslarati that she is happy to see the new changes the platform is implementing under Elon Musk’s new leadership.
She pointed out that under the new leadership, Twitter is “taking child exploitation seriously.” However, there is still much work to be done. There is an ongoing lawsuit against the social media platform that began before Elon Musk purchased it. The plaintiffs, John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 were minors who were sexually exploited, and videos of that exploitation were posted to Twitter. When the two, who are now adults, begged Twitter to remove the content, Twitter refused.
The content that the plaintiffs wanted Twitter to remove had over 167,000 views and 2,223 retweets.
Bleu pointed out a few key changes Twitter has made under its new leadership. The first changes were to its reporting system. In a tweet thread, Bleu made suggestions for Twitter, and so far, the platform has implemented two of those suggestions. The first one is clear and easy reporting. Twitter implemented a two-click reporting for children reporting their own abuse material.
Bleu noted that there needs to be a separate tab for adults experiencing sexual exploitation as well. “It needs to be crystal clear for both adults and children experiencing sexual exploitation, and the reporting options need to be separate.”
Easy Steps Twitter Could Take to Remove Child Sexual Exploitation Material:
1. Clear easy reporting. (Two click reporting for children reporting their own abuse material. Easy enough for a child.)
2. Prioritize the removal of reports of child exploitation first.
— Eliza (@elizableu) November 1, 2022
The other key issue that the platform has been noticeably working on is the removal of hashtags known to be used to sell CSE. These are known hashtags that are used for trading CSE on the platform. In the video below, attorneys Lisa Haba and Peter Gentala, the two attorneys representing John Doe 1 and John Doe 2, explain how these tags are used.
These hashtags are mentioned in the lawsuit, and Teslarati investigated them to see if the platform was actually removing the content. We found that Twitter is removing most of the content; however, there are still accounts posting requests for content.
Wow! The most popular hashtag used to sell child sexual abuse material on Twitter is almost completely cleaned out.
— Eliza (@elizableu) November 20, 2022
The screenshot below shows that Twitter removed content from the “Latest” tabs for one of those top hashtags. The tabs for “Photos” and “Videos” was also empty. However, the “Top Tweets” section still had requests for CSE and used several other tags. Unfortunately, some of those tags are still very active. Bleu noted that the predators will continue to post using a variety of tags, but the tags could help authorities catch the criminals–which is one of the reasons why Teslarati is not publishing the tags.
In her tweet thread, Bleu noted that some of the tags outside of the top three are actively engaging in sharing and posting the illegal content. Bleu told Teslarati that Twitter’s new sense of urgency makes her hopeful.
“After years of advocating for the minor survivors of Twitter, I’ve never been as hopeful as I am right now. I don’t expect perfection from a platform. All I’ve ever wanted was to see a sense of urgency around such a serious matter. In many of these cases, this is a matter of life or death for each victim, so every second matters.”
Bleu’s suggestion for Twitter is to continue prioritizing the removal of the CSE content, go through reports, go over all the backlogs of all the reports, and work hand-in-hand with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She added that Twitter should innovate around this issue using all the technology that’s available.
“There’s a lot of free technology available that platforms utilize and have had a lot of success,” Bleu added. Her final request for Twitter and Elon Musk is “to tackle this issue at scale without violating innocent citizens’ digital privacy rights.”
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