New Delhi: Twitter’s child sexual exploitation policy has been pulled up by an Australia-based academic, who said the micro-blogging site promotes paedophilia and encourages talk about abuse of minors.
Michael Salter, an associate professor of criminology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said on the social media platform Friday: “…Twitter quietly changed its terms of service to permit discussion about attraction towards minors…”
Twitter’s March 2019 policy on child sexual abuse says that any discussion on attraction towards minors is permitted, “provided they don’t promote or glorify child sexual exploitation in any way”.
Approached for comment on Salter’s allegations, a Twitter spokesperson said the social media giant “has a zero-tolerance policy for child sexual exploitation and we remain steadfastly committed to preventing the sexual exploitation of minors everywhere”.
Twitter also sought to reject Salter’s concerns, as expressed in his tweet thread, that the micro-blogging site will not take action against reported instances of online abuse.
“As detailed in our most recent Twitter Transparency Report, from January to June 2019, we suspended a total of 244,188 unique accounts for violations related to child sexual exploitation,” the spokesperson said.
“Of those unique accounts suspended, 91 per cent were flagged by a combination of technology (including PhotoDNA and internal, proprietary tools). We have been at the forefront of responding to the evolving challenge of preventing the exploitation of children on the internet and will continue to aggressively fight online child sexual abuse, as well as invest in the technology and tools that are essential to stay in front of this issue,” the spokesperson added.
‘Twitter has prioritised paedophiles’
Salter, who is also a board director at the Washington D.C.-based International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, said: “…sexual desires and social inclusion of paedophiles have been prioritised by Twitter over the safety of children on the platform.”
Salter’s accusations come barely two months after UK-based Internet Watch Foundation revealed that nearly half of child sexual abuse content in the social media space was being shared openly on Twitter.
Salter alleged that paedophile networks have “exploded” on Twitter in the past one year. “This includes users who justify child sexual abuse material, and demand access to child sexual abuse dolls,” he wrote. He added that he had no confidence in Twitter taking action against a user who claims to be “attracted to children, advocates for contact offending against children, and has an image of him with a child in his bio picture.”
Salter has alleged that Twitter’s head of product approves encryption of the site’s private messaging service, and it is only likely to exacerbate paedophilic content.
The amended policy
Twitter’s amended policy considers anyone under the age of 18 as a minor. The updated policy allows artistic depictions of nude minors in “a non-sexualised context” in some cases, such as works by internationally-renowned artists which feature children.
This change, Salter claimed, was made on the recommendations of “forensic psychs” (mental health professionals) who “wanted a forum” for individuals diagnosed with paedophilic disorder to discuss their issues.
Salter added that no child-protection or abuse-prevention experts were consulted since they would have never endorsed the new policy.
This report has been updated with Twitter’s reaction to the allegations.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.