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Instagram app on a smartphone: "Turn off abusive networks"


Instagram apparently left posts online that advertised sexualized violence against children. The postings with clear hashtags were used to advertise child abuse footage, which was then apparently to be bought and seen outside of Instagram. Orders for the production of abuse recordings could also apparently be submitted.

This is the result of a report in the US newspaper »Wall Street Journal« , which also worked with renowned US experts for the research. Through a test run, the newspaper was able to uncover that Instagram's algorithms have sometimes even recommended corresponding posts and accounts related to child abuse to new users.

There are also networks of pedophiles on the platform, which are apparently relatively easy to find. Corresponding accounts could also be found by searching for certain keywords, and in some cases the accounts also had terms such as "little bitch" in their names. Some of the hashtags have apparently been used thousands of times for posts.

The research group Stanford Internet Observatory, which is led by former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, was also involved in the investigation. He hopes that Meta will invest more in human auditors again, Stamos told the newspaper. The fact that a research team of three people with limited access was able to uncover a huge network should set alarm bells ringing at Meta, he stressed.

EU calls for clarification

Confronted with the research results, the company admitted that it had not discovered certain problematic content. However, the company also emphasized that perpetrators are constantly changing their tactics. That's why teams of specialists are employed to "understand their behavior and eliminate abusive networks." Between 2020 and 2022, 27 abusive networks were dismantled, and in January 2023, more than 490,000 accounts that violated youth protection policies were deactivated.

According to the report, the EU Commission is calling for rapid action from the parent company Meta. "The company's voluntary commitments to child protection do not seem to be working," EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton wrote on Twitter on Thursday. Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg must now provide answers and react immediately. After the EU's Digital Services Act comes into force at the end of August, Meta would otherwise face "harsh punishment".

Breton also wrote that he wanted to talk to Zuckerberg about the issue during a visit to Meta's headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on June 23.