A group of child sex trafficking survivors sent a poignant message to Twitter on the company’s 15th birthday. In a PSA created by three different organizations, they gave their testimonials about their experiences being trafficked and how their lives are impacted by the fact that their images are still being shared by the social media platform.
The survivors, who were portrayed by actors to protect their anonymity, voiced their pain and frustration with the company, which reportedly does not allow users to directly report tweets that feature the sexual abuse of minors. The video starts off with the actors giving birthday wishes to the company, acknowledging that 15 is “such a fun age.”
Another actor asks, “How are you going to celebrate?” The following actors detail how the survivors were abused by adults when they were the same age as Twitter.
“My dad took out the video camera,” one of the actors said. “I met up with a guy online,” another explained. “A friend of the family took pictures of me, like he did most days.”
Twitter has long been the subject of criticism due to its inability or unwillingness to remove child pornography from its platform even after being notified of its existence. While the company does implement measures to prevent the spread of illicit and illegal content on its site, pornographers are still able to disseminate significant levels of content featuring the sexual abuse of children.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child sexual abuse content has grown 41% over the past year on the platform.
One of the actors said, “I managed to get out, but the videos of me keep popping up on your platform.”
Another said: “When I meet new people, I wonder if they recognize me.”
Yet another actor explained: “One of the videos got tens of thousands of views on Twitter.”
“Those are the gifts you left for me for the rest of my life,” said one of the actors.
Jordan Doucette, president of No Fixed Address, released a statement explaining the horrific impact of these videos.
“These survivors have had their childhoods torn from them — many much younger than the age Twitter is turning this year,” he said. “We see the birthday as a symbol in which we can spark a meaningful conversation that leads to tangible change by putting enough pressure on platforms like Twitter to do more to protect our children online.”
Twitter is being sued by one of the victims whose videos were being spread on its platform. The plaintiff, who is called “John Doe” since he is still a 17-year-old minor, alleges that the company refused to remove videos in which he was performing sex acts with another minor even after being notified that he was 13-years-old at the time the footage was filmed. The company told him that the content did not violate its terms and conditions.
Recently, the social media company attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that it was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. (See: Twitter Tries Using Section 230 To Kill Child Porn Lawsuit)
It would not be shocking to see other victims file lawsuits against Twitter over its protection of child porn on its platform. The company had no problem with purging hundreds of thousands of accounts in January based on political affiliation, but it refuses to remove actual child porn on its platform.
In essence, its terms and conditions do not allow certain conservative opinions to be expressed, but footage showing 13-year-old children engaged in sexual acts is permissible. It is difficult to imagine how depraved a mind people at the company must have for this to be a reality. But perhaps legal action will force them to honor the wishes of the victims of these crimes.