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Instagrams Algorithms Connect Vast Paedophile Networks Seeking Child Porn

A bombshell report published on Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) revealed that Instagram recommendation algorithms helped link and promote a “vast network of pedophiles” using social media to find illegal underage sexual content and activity. The outlet further said that the algorithms also advertised the sale of illicit “child-sex material” on the platform. The findings were based on an investigation into child pornography on the Meta-owned platform by WSJ and researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Pedophiles use Instagram to commission and purchase child pornography, the researchers found. This is because the platform’s algorithms help connect pedophiles to content sellers who specialize in creating and selling such materials, according to the report. Many of these sellers also convey their purported age to potential buyers via coded emojis on their Instagram profiles, such as an arrow pointing backward for “chapter 14” or the image of a map for “age 31.”

In addition to being a platform for sellers of illicit child-sex images and videos, Instagram is home to other accounts that aggregate pro-pedophilia memes and discuss their access to children. The experts at Stanford’s Internet Observatory found that these communities have been able to thrive on the platform thanks to its effective recommendation systems. The researchers set up test accounts that used a single hashtag associated with child sex abuse, and they were immediately recommended to purported child-sex-content sellers and buyers, as well as account links to off-platform content trading sites.

This is especially concerning because of the ease with which pedophiles can evade Instagram’s detection tools. For instance, a mother of two told WSJ she noticed that Instagram started recommending her an account called “incest toddlers,” which included various disturbing images and memes, including ones that depicted the Tesla CEO in Desi attire. She quickly flagged this account as violating Instagram’s terms of service, but the “incest toddlers” page remained on the platform.

Instagram’s parent company Meta responded to the WSJ report by setting up an internal task force to investigate the issue and acknowledging flaws in its system for detecting child-sex abuse images. The company has also pledged to crack down on hashtags that sexualize minors and restrict searches for terms such as pedophilia in its algorithm, ZeroHedge reports.

The company has dismantled 27 pedophile networks and disabled hundreds of thousands of accounts violating its policies. Despite these efforts, the Stanford Internet Observatory experts say Instagram remains a key discovery mechanism for this illicit activity due to its effective recommendation system and relatively long-lived seller accounts. They call for the company to reinvest in human investigators to ensure users don’t encounter such images when searching. Follow ZeroHedge on Facebook and Twitter. Also, check out our free ZeroHedge Newsletter. It’s a great way to stay updated on financial news and politics.

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