Instagram is facilitating a vast pedophile network

Instagram is facilitating a vast pedophile network

The Wall Street Journal recently published a bombshell investigation revealing that Meta-owned social-media platform Instagram is connecting and promoting a vast network of pedophile accounts dedicated to the buying and selling of child sex abuse material.

According to the article:

“Pedophiles have long used the internet, but unlike the forums and file-transfer services that cater to people who have interest in illicit content, Instagram doesn’t merely host these activities. Its algorithms promote them. Instagram connects pedophiles and guides them to content sellers via recommendation systems that excel at linking those who share niche interests, the Journal and the academic researchers found.

Though out of sight for most on the platform, the sexualized accounts on Instagram are brazen about their interest. The researchers found that Instagram enabled people to search explicit hashtags such as #pedowhore and #preteensex and connected them to accounts that used the terms to advertise child-sex material for sale. Such accounts often claim to be run by the children themselves and use overtly sexual handles incorporating words such as “little slut for you.”

Instagram accounts offering to sell illicit sex material generally don’t publish it openly, instead posting “menus” of content. Certain accounts invite buyers to commission specific acts. Some menus include prices for videos of children harming themselves and “imagery of the minor performing sexual acts with animals,” researchers at the Stanford Internet Observatory found. At the right price, children are available for in-person “meet ups.””

We know from experience, that Meta is very quick to censor and remove content it disapproves of. Just last year Women’s Forum Australia had a post removed for ‘hate speech’, which simply stated that men don’t give birth.

“So why has a vast pedophile network not only been allowed to flourish on Instagram, but been promoted by the platform’s algorithms?”, asks our CEO Rachael Wong.

We know that Pornhub has operated similarly in failing to deal with blatant trafficking and sexual abuse content because it benefits its business. On the face of it, it would appear that Meta also values its bottom line more than it values protecting vulnerable children. If this is the case, there are no words for how abhorrent and outrageous this is.

Watch our Research Fellow Stephanie Bastiaan talk to Rita Panahi about this disturbing story, where she calls for an investigation into Meta. Companies like this cannot be allowed to act with impunity when it comes to failures as grave as this.

Women’s Forum Australia is an independent think tank that undertakes research, education and public policy advocacy on issues affecting women and girls, with a particular focus on addressing behaviours and practices that are harmful and abusive to them. We are a non-partisan, non-religious, tax-deductible charity. We do not receive any government funding and rely solely on donations to make an impact. Support our work today.

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