The heart of tech is coming to the heart of the Mediterranean. Join TNW in València this March 🇪🇸

This article was published on January 9, 2020

Twitter lets pedophiles publicly discuss their sexual ‘attraction to minors,’ scholar argues

Twitter lets pedophiles publicly discuss their sexual ‘attraction to minors,’ scholar argues

Social platforms like Instagram and Twitter discreetly change their terms and conditions on the regular. For example, last year we saw Facebook quietly introduce the ban on ‘sexual emoji’ that proved discriminatory towards sex workers and NSFW artists making a living on the platform.

Now, as Australian academic pointed out, Twitter seemingly changed its guidelines last March to allow public discussion about “attraction towards minors” with the agreement that “they don’t promote or glorify child sexual exploitation in any way.”

As first reported by The Daily Dot, Michael Salter, a criminologist and coordinator of “Organised Abuse” — a site that shares ‘reliable information about organized abuse to professionals, victims, and survivors’ — highlighted Twitter’s policy loophole in a series of tweets last week.

A screenshot of Twitter’s “What is not a violation of this policy?” taken from its ‘Child sexual exploitation policy’ page.

In the thread, Salter argued that Twitter’s updated terms of service prioritize “the sexual desires and social inclusion of pedophiles have been prioritized by Twitter over the safety of children on the platform or in the community.” The criminologist speculated that ‘minor-attracted people’ may be permitted to discuss ‘attraction to minors’ because of encouragement from forensic psychiatrists who want their patients to have an outlet to discuss their issues. 

Adding to this, Salter argued that child protection and abuse prevention experts weren’t consulted, “because we would never have endorsed this change.” However, in a letter signed by various child sexual abuse experts addressed to John Starr, Twitter’s Director of Trust and Safety, last January, they argued that Twitter has the potential to be an important ally in the battle against child sexual abuse. But, “we are concerned that Twitter’s recent suspension of the accounts of prominent anti-contact, non-offending pedophiles may have been a knee-jerk response to uninformed public pressure, rather than a reasoned decision made in the best interests of children.”

Over the past year, Salter pointed out that pedophile networks on the social networking platform “have exploded.” At the time of tweeting this thread, Salter said he reported “a user who states he is attracted to children, advocates for contact offending against children, and has an image of him with a child in his bio pic.”

Last year, statistics from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) found that Twitter is responsible for half of the child abuse material found online found by UK investigators. According to the IWF, 49 percent of the child abuse material it found online in the last three years originated on Twitter. Accounting for 1,396 of the total 2,835 incidents found.

“Twitter has zero tolerance towards any material that features or promotes child sexual exploitation. Regardless of the intent, viewing, sharing, or linking to child sexual exploitation material contributes to the re-victimization of the depicted children. It has no place on our service,” A Twitter spokesperson told TNW.

Salter added that for over twenty years, tech companies have “buried their heads in the sand when it comes to online pedophilia. Pedophiles need early intervention, treatment, and support for behavior change. They do not need a public forum to discuss their sexual attraction to children.”

This piece has been updated to include a letter to Twitter signed by various child sexual abuse experts arguing that permanently suspending accounts of non-offending pedophiles doesn’t benefit the safety of children. 

Also tagged with