#WakeUpInstagram Campaign Highlights Disturbing Trend of Child Exploitation on Network

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Social media is a terrifying place as a parent. You can do everything you can to keep your children safe at home, to keep an eye on them in public, to be vigilant about who they spend their time privately with. 

But if they are freely using social media, the distance between your children and sexual predators can be closed in lightening-speed, particularly on Instagram.

The National Center On Sexual Exploitation has launched their much-needed #WakeUpInstagram campaign to demand the tech giant do more to prevent predators from having access to children with, which current algorithms and settings, they easily have. 

The NCOSE reports: 

 

  • According to survivor testimony, sex traffickers and child predators appear to be increasingly using Instagram to identify, groom, and exploit children.

  • Minors whose Instagram accounts are set to private can still receive unsolicited direct messages from strangers, which has led to several instances of sex trafficking and child sexual abuse.

  • There are countless comments by predatory adults on the photos of minors, where they leave sexually graphic comments, sexualize children, or solicit sex from children.

 

If you’re an Instagram user, you’re well aware of how many creepy messages and comments you can get from strangers, no matter what sorts of people you follow or interact with. Those creepy men messaging your homeschool craft or meal prepping Instagram account with “hey sexy mama” are doing the same thing to children.

Twitter users have been using the hashtag #WakeUpInstagram to share these disturbing instances and spread awareness: 

And as far as Instagram is concerned, their methods of preventing predators from having access to children are perfectly adequate, despite the demonstrated usefulness their network has to the child sex trade. 

The Facebook-owned company responded to the #WakeUpInstagram campaign with this statement: 

Any content that endangers or exploits children is unthinkable and has no place on Instagram. We have policies that prohibit this type of content, and we use proactive technology to find and remove content that poses a risk to children. We’re constantly working on more ways to help prevent this behavior on our platform.

The NCOSE was not pleased with this tepid commitment on the part of Instagram to end the sexual exploitation of minors on their network. 

Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach, Haley Halverson said: 

Facebook’s response to the #WakeUpInstagram campaign noting its current policies and practices is hollow boilerplate language. The evidence clearly shows that the status quo is not working! Such a callous reply is a slap in the face to the children being exploited on Instagram right now. It’s time for Facebook’s Instagram to dispense with the corporate doublespeak and instead publicly commit to real-world improvements, including but not limited to, changing settings so strangers cannot direct message minors, and fixing its algorithm to proactively remove sexual, pedophile-like, comments on minor’s photos.

Instagram is more than happy to rake millions in from their advertisers while giving them access to the data that helps them target customers, but they have no interest in protecting their users from sick, twisted predators. 

We need to join this campaign and shock Instagram into the reality of what their network is being used for. 

The NCOSE is asking us all to email Instagram executives and let them know the demands we have for their platform: 

1) Instagram must change its settings so that strangers cannot direct message minors,

2) Instagram must fix its algorithm to proactively remove sexualizing or sexually graphic comments on minor’s photos,

3) Instagram must update its reporting system so that if someone is reporting a sexual comment on a minor’s post it can be reported as such. The “harassment/bullying“ selection does not capture the fact that these comments come from adults who are grooming/sexualizing/harassing a child.

4) Instagram should investigate accounts that are solely dedicated to posting images of minors, particularly those that are said to be ‘modeling’ pictures to ensure they are not promoting sexualized photos or attracting sexualized comments.

You know what to do, folks. Time to make sure we #WakeUpInstagram. 

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