MENLO PARK, CA – A new report by the Wall Street Journal, supplemented by research conducted by Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, alleges that Instagram is assisting pedophiles in establishing a vast communications network on the popular social media platform.
The report claims that Instagram permitted and even promoted accounts on its platform that blatantly purchase and share what they refer to as “underage sex content,” even allowing the use of illicit hashtags that would lead users to accounts offering pedophilia.
“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,” the report said. “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.”
According to Stanford Internet Observatory researchers, the accounts in question would display menus offering a plethora of disturbing content, including “imagery of the minor performing sexual acts with animals,” videos depicting children hurting themselves in various ways, and even the opportunity for users to “meet up” with underage children in real life.
Instagram parent company, Meta, released a statement in response to the explosive report, saying that it has since removed 27 pedophile networks from its platform as well as hashtags used by child sex traffickers.
“Child exploitation is a horrific crime,” Meta said in a statement. “We’re continuously investigating ways to actively defend against this behavior.”
David Thiel, the Chief Technologist at the Stanford Internet Observatory, said that the protections that Instagram has in place against underage sex content are lacking when compared to other social media platforms, such as Twitter.
“Instagram’s problem comes down to content-discovery features, the ways topics are recommended, and how much the platform relies on search and links between accounts,” he said. “You have to put guardrails in place for something that growth-intensive to still be nominally safe, and Instagram hasn’t.”