A comprehensive investigation by the Wall Street Journal and the Stanford Internet Observatory reveals that Meta-owned Instagram has been home to an organized and massive network of pedophiles.
But what separates this case from most is that Instagram’s own algorithms were promoting pedophile content to other pedophiles, while the pedos themselves used coded emojis, such as a picture of a map, or a slice of cheese pizza.
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 pedophilic accounts on Instagram mix brazenness with superficial efforts to veil their activity, researchers found. Certain emojis function as a kind of code, such as an image of a map—shorthand for “minor-attracted person”—or one of “cheese pizza,” which shares its initials with “child pornography,” according to Levine of UMass. Many declare themselves “lovers of the little things in life.” -WSJ
According to the researchers, Instagram allowed pedophiles to search for content with explicit hashtags such as #pedowhore and #preteensex, which were then used to connect them to accounts that advertise child-sex material for sale from users going under names such as “little slut for you.”
Sellers of child porn often convey the child’s purported age, saying they are “on chapter 14,” or “age 31,” with an emoji of a reverse arrow.
Meta claims to have taken down 27 pedophile networks over the past two years, and says it plans more removals.
“That a team of three academics with limited access could find such a huge network should set off alarms at Meta,” said Alex Stamos, the head of the Stanford Internet Observatory and Meta’s chief security officer until 2018, adding that the company has far more effective tools to ‘map’ its pedophile network than outsiders do.
“I hope the company reinvests in human investigators,” he added.
Researchers investigating the network set up test accounts within the pedophile network, which were immediately inundated with “suggested for you” recommendations of child-sex content, as well as accounts linking to off-platform trading sites.
Read moreCheese Pizza? Meta’s Instagram Facilitated Massive Pedophile Network