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Meta ignored own review warning about child exploitation on Instagram, unresponsive to most complaints: Report

An internal review carried out by Meta has revealed that its algorithms promote accounts of child influencers to users who have pedophilic interests.
Last Updated 24 February 2024, 09:14 IST

Social media platform Instagram has become a hunting ground for people with pedophilic tendencies who are spending significant amount of money to get access to subscription-based content from child influencers, a report in the Wall Street Journal stated.

Most of the people who have profited from the paid subscription tool introduced by Meta are the mothers who put up pictures of their own children in leotards and bikinis, the report further claimed.

An internal review carried out by Meta has revealed that its algorithms promote accounts of child influencers to users who have pedophilic interests. The WSJ said that while the content being shared cannot be considered pornographic, investigators are sure that these parents were aware of their children's pictures serving the sexual interests of a number of adult males.

The Journal reported, "Parents engaged in sexual banter about their own children, or had their daughters interact with subsribers' sexual messages."

Meta's internal team reportedly recommended coming up with plans like registering child-focused accounts with the platform. However, the company chose to build an automated program to prevent people with pedophilic interests from subscribing to accounts of children run by their parents, which proved to be ineffective, the Journal reported.

In a separate report, the New York Times also criticised the firm for its "poor" efforts at moderation, pointing out that during an eight-month period, the publication filed 50 reports on dubious content starring children, and Meta only addressed one of them. According to a 2020 Meta internal analysis that was made public in court documents, 5,00,000 child Instagram accounts had daily interactions that were deemed "inappropriate."

With Facebook and Instagram being accused in a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of New Mexico in December of establishing a “marketplace for predators in search of children", Meta already has a bad reputation when it comes to kid protection on its platforms.

The Times has conducted a survey on activities in accounts of child models. The survey showed that there were wide variations in the percentage of male followers in the Times sample. A few thousand largely female fans followed numerous accounts. Men made up around 35 per cent of the overall audience, but as accounts gained popularity, their numbers increased significantly. The data revealed that over 75 per cent of those with over 1,00,000 followers were male.

The Times, while keeping an eye on several Telegram chat rooms, observed that some men treat children's Instagram accounts and subscription services as menu items to satiate their fantasies.

They exchange data about parents who are thought to be amenable to creating and commercialising "private sets" of their children's photos.

A well-organised Telegram group with over 4,000 members included a Google sheet tracking nearly 700 youngsters and an FAQ page. The hashtags used to identify the children helped other members locate them in the lengthy chat history.

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(Published 24 February 2024, 09:14 IST)

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