Report: 49% of Links to Open‑Access Child Sexual Abuse Content Shared Via Twitter


Nov 13, 2019


Image Credit: FOX Business

New statistics released by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) state that Twitter is host to almost half the child sexual abuse content hosted openly on popular websites. Twitter contained 1,396 of the total 2,835 child sexual abuse links found on the open Internet between 2016 to 2018.

All of these links containing child sexual abuse images and videos had evaded Twitter’s filters and were available to view publicly. After Twitter, Microsoft Bing was home to the second-highest number of child sexual abuse links — 604 recorded between the same time period. Amazon contained 375 links, Google contained 348, Facebook contained 72, and YouTube contained 22.

The IWF is a foundation dedicated to the removal of child sexual abuse imagery online, funded largely by annual membership subscriptions from companies like Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Twitter, who pay anywhere from £27,000 to more than £80,000 in fees.

However, IWF states that the majority of child sexual abuse content is hosted in darker, little-known parts of the Internet and that it’s only able to identify what’s in the public domain. In the public domain, the greatest offenders remain image hosting platforms, whose names were redacted from the report because of ongoing police investigations, which make up 82% of the total child sexual abuse links found.

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“It’s a bit of a myth that all of this content is hosted on social networks; of the 105,047 URLs we identified showing child sexual abuse material last year, just half a percent (0.5%) were hosted on social media sites. It’s important to recognize, however, that IWF operates on the open internet, not on messaging services like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, which are person-to-person communications,” IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves, OBE, said in a statement.

Twitter and Microsoft, however, raised issue over the veracity of IWF’s data. “We have serious concerns about the accuracy of these figures and the metrics used to produce them. …The IWF has used one data standard across all services, social platforms, file hosting platforms, and search engines, which isn’t a reliable metric, nor does it reflect the scale of proactive work we do in this area,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Telegraph.“The data, taken from 2018 and without consideration of improvements made as a result of reports and routine diligence over the course of the current year, are from unverified or raw end-user reports, and are therefore not an accurate measure of the actual prevalence of child sexual exploitation and abuse images on the platform,” said a Microsoft spokesperson.

The IWF stated it only released figures for the number of incidences verified as child sexual abuse by human analysts, rather than the number flagged by scanning software. They also stated that their data is trusted by police, governments, and internet companies around the world.

“Our data is accurate and recorded fairly and consistently regardless of where we find child sexual abuse material. …We’re also very happy to make it available to an independent hotline inspection team, comprising a law enforcement auditor and High Court judge, for scrutiny,” Hargreaves told The Telegraph.


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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