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Monday, September 27, 2021

Twitter has become hub for child porn and rape videos: Report

The easy availability of porn content, particularly that of child porn, on social media has triggered several questions. Twitter despite its policies seems to be a hub where child porn to rape videos abound thereby indicating the failure of the platform to adhere to its own standards says a Disinfo Lab report.

Social porn on Twitter

Disemmination of porn content through social media (SM) is referred to as social porn. This trend of the closing years of the first decade of the 21st century, led to a scramble among social media platforms to regulate porn content on their sites. With the exception of Twitter, most platforms have been able to filter such content to a large extent.

The report makes it clear in no uncertain terms that Twitter’s standards is not just dismal when compared to other platforms but also that it has hardly been able to adhere to its own standards when it comes to exercising control on child porn and rape videos.

In addition to such content being abundant, the access to social porn on Twitter is totally unhindered for users cutting across age groups. Which essentially means that anybody can post as well as view such content even if they are underage.

This is a failure of Twitter’s content filtering algorithm is way behind other platforms. “Twitter’s low ‘IQ’ AI is apparent to any social media user, where Twitter keeps ‘recommending’ random contents in various ‘categories’ which often look like mere ‘key word’ based. The ‘filtering’ or access control on adult/ porn content seem to be governed by no better tools” notes the report.

Explicit porn content on Twitter falls under the not safe for work (NSFW) category and there are several omissions and commissions on the part of the SM platform in allowing the proliferation of such content. The report takes a detailed look at the various failures of and violations by Twitter that has allowed porn content in general and child porn in particular to make its way unhindered on the platform.

Twitter violating Bharat’s laws

It is only in case of Bharat that Twitter has been violating the laws of the land with impunity. The rules released by MEITY (Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology) in February this year had clearly stated that the government would be bringing in rules that would ensure that porn, child porn, rape images and videos, and other such content including fake news is put an end too.

In this regard, accountability of social media platforms were also to be fixed by the government. However, unlike most other platforms, Twitter made no efforts to as much as address these serious concerns.

Porn industry took to social media like fish to water and found that circulating its content on image and video sharing platforms through dedicated channels created a niche adult content space of its own. While other platforms began regulating porn content through strict policy measures, Twitter, however, has not done anything to contain the explicit sexual content on its platform.

The report notes “While it is not clear whether Twitter is willfully ignoring the law of the land i.e., Indian prohibition on public sharing of porn content, or it has been oblivious; it continues to be the hub of vulgar and pornographic content available online. Surprisingly, the extent and nature of such content that is openly available on Twitter, including explicit porn prohibited by law”.

Twitter – epicenter of porn content

Twitter always verified handles of porn stars to freely share their content and despite prohibition by Bharat’s laws the content is available to Bharatiya users even though Twitter has the technical capabilities to place geographical restrictions on the content.

What’s worse is that Twitter not just permits the presence of such content but even facilitates spreading it. Twitter algorithms work in such a way that searching or navigating to one account would ‘suggest’ multiple accounts with similar content. In other words, Twitter is actually amplifying explicit content to the users instead of putting an end to the sharing of such content in the first place.

Twitter gives explicit content access to underage users

It is an even more disconcerting fact that Twitter the age bar to use the SM platform is very low at just 13 years. Moreover, Twitter has no policy in place that would prevent underage users from accessing explicit content freely available on its platform.

Twitter
Twitter allows underage users to access explicit content. PC: Disinfo Lab

Anyone who permits the option of “display media that may contain sensitive content” is allowed to view such sensitive contents, which includes content pornographic media. There is no age screening or verification and no warning message appears. Basically, Twitter doesn’t demarcate regular and objectionable content for underage users.

How effective are Twitter’s policies?

Twitter’s sensitive media policy states You may not post media that is excessively gory or share violent or adult content within live video or in profile header, or List banner images. Media depicting sexual violence and/or assault is also not permitted“.

Despite the fact that Twitter’s policy explicitly prohibits violent or adult content, it allows such contents to be posted under content marked as “sensitive” which is available to anyone who chooses to view it, even those users who are underage as we have already seen.

Even rape videos find their way to Twitter thereby violating both the law of the land as well as Twitter’s own policy. “Remember the tragic story of the gang-rape of a girl at the outskirts of Jaipur. While the culprits were apprehended, the video of the ghastly act was posted by the culprits themselves. It’s been years to the incident, but the videos are still available and circulating on Twitter!” points out Disinfo Lab.

Twitter
PC: Disinfo Lab

Similar discrepancies are noticed in Twitter’s stated policy and actual implementation with regard to child sexual exploitation policy, non-consensual nudity policy, and adult sexual content. If you thought this was dangerous, then here’s something that is both shocking and alarming.

The report further notes “While we were fretting about the non-existent filtering and free access to porn to underage users, Twitter’s benevolence goes beyond its user base. Any casual internet user can access Twitter porn without the need to even open an account”.

In other words, the Twitter age criteria of 13 years is basically useless as far as access of such explicit material is concerned. Any user can use Google search seeking porn content and Twitter will offer its services. “In fact, in several cases Twitter was the first suggestion!”, discovered the report. The only ‘obstacle’ is that Twitter ‘warns’ user about the sensitive nature of the content.

Twitter
PC: Disinfo Lab

It is also important to note that Twitter’s “sensitive content” marker is too generic to be effective as it makes no distinction between explicit sexual content and other types of sensitive content. There is also economics involved and many Twitter accounts are seen actively selling porn content from which Twitter also stands to benefit. In short, there seems to be a symbiotic relationship between Twitter and adult content industry.

Those selling porn on Twitter use various methods and may even be involved in malicious activities such as phishing. There are also syndicates operating on Twitter that promote such content freely. In fact, the lack of control on Twitter has allowed these syndicates to even sell porn through ‘live webcams’.

This unregulated porn industry on Twitter is also a magnet for crime syndicates and anti-national elements. The criminal activities that Twitter’s vague policies are promoting range from blackmails (sextortion) to other forms of extortion with serious consequences at times.

In conclusion, we would quote from the Disinfo Lab report:

“In complete disregard to India’s IT laws, Twitter not only continues to keep its eyes shut but has also been seem to be enabling such content, which is increasing despite all the laws and policies in place. In several cases, it doesn’t seem to be a question of technical capabilities, as Twitter does take action on similar other activities outside India.

Therefore, it could wither be the sheer indifference to a third world brown people or a willful negligence. In either case, the suffering and damage is entirely to the society, while Twitter would continue to fatten its revenue through the larger user base in India”.

(Featured Image Source: IANS)


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