Deep Dives

Damning Probes Connect Instagram to Pedophile Rings

June 8, 2023
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Instagram's recommendation algorithms have been found to connect and promote accounts involved in selling child sexual abuse content, as per a new investigation. The study from Stanford University points out that Instagram seems to have a severe issue with accounts displaying self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM), supposedly operated by minors.

Instagram's Issue: Instagram is identified as having a major problem with accounts showing child sexual abuse material.
  • These accounts, which claim to be operated by minors, are connected and promoted by Instagram's recommendation algorithms.
  • Instagram's use of hashtags and its recommendation algorithm make it a key discovery mechanism for this community of buyers and sellers.

  • Role of Recommendation Algorithms: Instagram's algorithms are promoting accounts involved in child abuse.
  • While these accounts could be found by any user searching for explicit hashtags, Instagram's algorithms also promote them to users viewing an account in the network, thus facilitating account discovery without keyword searches.

  • Meta's Response: Meta responded to the claims, stating it is taking several steps to rectify the issues.
  • A Meta spokesperson announced the setup of an internal task force to investigate and address the claims.
  • The company emphasizes its commitment to aggressively fight child exploitation both on and off its platforms.

  • Concerns about Twitter: Instagram is not the only platform with child exploitation issues, as concerns about Twitter have also been raised.
  • Alex Stamos, one of the study's authors and former Facebook chief security officer, tweeted that Twitter continues to have serious issues with child exploitation.
  • Stamos said Twitter's basic scanning for known child sexual abuse material broke after Elon Musk's acquisition and was not fixed until they notified them.
  • He also mentioned that Twitter cut off their API access, which allows researchers to study Twitter data.
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