In a recent, infamous microblogging platform, Twitter is being sued by a minor and his mother for allegedly neglecting the removal of exploitative material involving the minor. The material was retweeted several times and also had at least 167,000 views on Twitter. The minor and his mother disclosed that the intervention from a Homeland Security officer was required to make Twitter remove this video. 

The mentioned content is child sexual exploitation material and hence, the lawsuit is brought in part by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). The material was allegedly procured by the abusers through catfishing the boy as a 16-year-old girl. Reportedly, private conversations and pictures were shared from both ends. Later on, the alleged harassers resorted to blackmailing, and finding no other way to handle this situation, the minor blocked them. Upon being blocked, the private material was shared on the platform. An email from Twitter addressed to the minor and his mother that has been shared by the family reads – “reviewed the content, and didn’t find a violation of our policies, so no action will be taken at this time.” 

The minor is seeking damages under the federal Trafficking Victims’ Protection Reauthorization Act.

However, there have been multiple questions being raised on the suing part of this story. The above-mentioned letter is dated January 28, 2020. There have been questions encircling that why did the family choose to charge the platform so late when the incident happened nearly a year back. Also, a multi-billionaire company not having a proper response system to child sexual exploitation is unbelievable on many grounds. You can check out the updated (October 2020) Child sexual exploitation policy.  

“Twitter has zero tolerance towards any material that features or promotes child sexual exploitation, one of the most serious violations of the Twitter Rules. This may include media, text, illustrated, or computer-generated images. Regardless of the intent, viewing, sharing, or linking to child sexual exploitation material contributes to the re-victimization of the depicted children.” 

So, having a lackluster attitude in responding to victims is not acceptable. Twitter has yet not made a formal statement about this issue in particular. 

Comparing the ease of reporting a post under CSEM 

Storing, viewing, and sharing Child sexual exploitation material is a heinous crime. While websites like Pornhub faced scrutiny over Child Sex Abuse Material (CSAM) and sex trafficking victims on their platforms, let us have a look at how easy or difficult it is to report material on Twitter and Instagram. 

This image is from Twitter’s mobile application, which does not give one the option to mark out the content as child abuse specific. If one needs to report any child abuse material online on Twitter one has to fill out this form. Not a very instant response in comparison to Instagram. 

Instagram gives us the option to report content that is child abuse specific here which is pretty clear and direct. 

Twitter has trends and hashtags that are infested with predators. Not that other platforms are free of them. Twitter has special hashtags and communities where consenting adults take part in sexual conversation. However, sometimes minors are roped into it unknowingly and that is when it becomes inappropriate and problematic. 

Internet: A house to all

The biggest issue about being online or having an internet presence is its vastness and the easily masked identity that follows. For example, if an abuser’s account gets permanently banned from a social media platform, it hardly takes them a minute to reappear on the platform with a different identity.

Even though cybersecurity forces are well-equipped and there are constant researches being conducted under the same, sometimes pinning down the abusers legally becomes an issue. This can be due to the abuser storing the explicit content in a particular order or using VPNs and escaping jurisdiction to quite some level or more due to forged IP addresses that do not come under the legal purview of many countries. It is not so easy to gate and curate every trend and it gets even tougher to legally hold them down under proper jurisdiction.