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San Francisco, June 8 – Meta-owned Instagram’s recommendation algorithms are allegedly promoting networks of pedophiles who commission and sell child sexual abuse content on the popular image sharing platform, the media reported.
In a tweet, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that the findings are “extremely concerning”.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the platform “helps connect and promote a vast network of accounts openly devoted to the commission and purchase of underage-sex content”.
This was revealed during a joint investigation by The WSJ and researchers at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“The Meta unit’s systems for fostering communities have guided users to child-sex content” while the social networking platform has claimed it is “improving internal controls”.
Accounts found by the researchers are advertised using blatant and explicit hashtags like #pedowhore, #preteensex, and #pedobait.
When researchers set up a test account and viewed content shared by these networks, they were immediately recommended more accounts to follow.
“Following just a handful of these recommendations was enough to flood a test account with content that sexualizes children,” the report claimed.
Meta told the Journal that it had failed to act on these reports and that “it was reviewing its internal processes”.
Alex Stamos, head of Stanford’s Internet Observatory and former chief security officer for Meta, was quoted as saying that a team of three academics with limited access could find such a huge network should set off alarms at Meta.
“I hope the company reinvests in human investigators,” Stamos was quoted as saying.
The Stanford investigators found “128 accounts offering to sell child-sex-abuse material on Twitter, less than a third the number they found on Instagram”.
David Thiel, chief technologist at the Stanford Internet Observatory, was quoted as saying that one has to “put guardrails in place for something that growth-intensive to still be nominally safe, and Instagram hasn’t”.