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You Hate Twitter Already? But Did You Know About the Child Porn?

From a searing report at The Verge, we learn that it’s out of control but executives have just not prioritized the issue

Recently, we’ve been covering Twitter’s court-destined squabble with tech entrepreneur Elon Musk about what he should pay for the edgy social medium. Labor writer Zoe Schiffer and tech writer Casey Newton published an article at The Verge today that will surely stir the pot. It’s about Twitter’s problems with child porn — and its efforts to get involved with adult porn.

The story is complex as well as disturbing but here’s the outline: Early in 2022, Twitter, which has not been making much money in recent years, decided to allow adult content (porn) vendors to tweet their wares to paying customers (Adult Content Monetization or ACM). Twitter would, of course, get a percentage. The main competitor, OnlyFans, projects revenues of $2.5 billion this year, half of Twitter’s total. So far so bad. But a stark reality swiftly kicked in:

Twitter could not safely allow adult creators to sell subscriptions because the company was not — and still is not — effectively policing harmful sexual content on the platform.

“Twitter cannot accurately detect child sexual exploitation and non-consensual nudity at scale,” the Red Team concluded in April 2022. The company also lacked tools to verify that creators and consumers of adult content were of legal age, the team found. As a result, in May — weeks after Elon Musk agreed to purchase the company for $44 billion — the company delayed the project indefinitely. If Twitter couldn’t consistently remove child sexual exploitative content on the platform today, how would it even begin to monetize porn?

Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newton, “How Twitter’s child porn problem ruined its plans for an OnlyFans competitor” at The Verge (August 30, 2022)

As Schiffer and Newton reveal, Twitter’s tools for identifying child porn and non-consensual adult nudity on its site are, by today’s high-tech standards, primitive and ineffectual. If porn vendors were operating inside a planned paywall, Twitter itself probably wouldn’t be able to find child porn.

Employee whistleblowers say that Twitter’s execs knew about but tried to ignore the problem:

Employees we spoke to reiterated that despite executives knowing about the company’s CSE problems, Twitter has not committed sufficient resources to detect, remove, and prevent harmful content from the platform.

Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newton, “How Twitter’s child porn problem ruined its plans for an OnlyFans competitor” at The Verge (August 30, 2022)

Accusations against Twitter for benefiting from child porn are the substance of a 2021 court case in the ninth circuit: “Twitter benefited from participating in a venture involving them and should have known they were sex trafficking victims” (Bloomberg Law, August 20, 2021).

One reason Twitter’s control in this area is reputed to be worse than Facebook’s is that it has not made a profit in eight of the last 10 years. In other words, the firm may not have the money to update its detection technology. One strategy for improving income is to add 100 million users to its nearly 230-million current user base. And another is… adult porn.

A company spokeswoman assured Schiffer and Newton,

“Twitter has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation,” Twitter’s [Katie] Rosborough said. “We aggressively fight online child sexual abuse and have invested significantly in technology and tools to enforce our policy. Our dedicated teams work to stay ahead of bad-faith actors and to help ensure we’re protecting minors from harm — both on and offline.”

Zoe Schiffer and Casey Newton, “How Twitter’s child porn problem ruined its plans for an OnlyFans competitor” at The Verge (August 30, 2022)

There appear to be some cracks in the narrative.

In other news, ex-security head Peiter Zatko revealed that Twitter has serious security issues including, he says, foreign agents on the payroll.

It would all be less costly and damaging as a movie. Stay tuned.


You may also wish to read: Twitter vs. Musk: The many different ways the story could end. Twitter, which didn’t really want Musk, is now suing to make him its boss. They all hate each other. Can this work? The Big Tech world is a strange place. A hall of mirrors where lifeless bots may be hidden influencers and advertisers’ cash may suddenly go up in flames.


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You Hate Twitter Already? But Did You Know About the Child Porn?