Instagram ‘most important platform’ for child sex abuse networks: report

Searches for sexually explicit keywords lead to accounts that use these terms to advertise sexual abuse of minors

June 09, 2023
Instagram now has a "hidden words" feature that enables users to filter abusive messages. —AFP

SAN FRANCISCO: Instagram is the main platform used by paedophile networks to promote and sell content showing child sexual abuse, according to a report by Stanford University and the Wall Street Journal. “Large networks of accounts that appear to be operated by minors are openly advertising self-generated child sexual abuse material for sale,” said researchers at the US university’s Cyber Policy Center. “Instagram is currently the most important platform for these networks with features like recommendation algorithms and direct messaging that help connect buyers and sellers.” According to the Journal, a simple search for sexually explicit keywords specifically referencing children leads to accounts that use these terms to advertise content showing the sexual abuse of minors.


The profiles often “claim to be driven by the children themselves and use overtly sexual pseudonyms”, the article detailed. While not specifically saying they sell these images, the accounts do feature menus with options, including in some cases specific sex acts. Stanford researchers also spotted offers for videos with bestiality and self-harm. “At a certain price, children are available for in-person ‘meetings’,” the article continued. Meta, Instagram’s parent company, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from AFP. According to the Journal, the social media giant acknowledged problems within its security services and said it had created a task force to address the issues raised. Last March, pension and investment funds filed a complaint against Meta for having “turned a blind eye” to human trafficking and child sex abuse images on its platforms.