TRIGGER WARNING: The below content features stories of sexual abuse and child sexual abuse material.
Survivors of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) are wishing Twitter a happy 15th birthday by sharing their collective devastating stories and struggles to have the platform remove their own child sexual abuse material in a new video.
Many survivors have recounted spending thousands of hours self-monitoring and reporting CSAM to online platforms such as Twitter in an effort to have abusive material taken down. Often, they say reporting once is not enough—instead they receive automated messages and push back on their claims.
The video, created by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), follows its report that shows Twitter ranks poorly when compared to other online platforms tied to the ease of reporting CSAM.
“From infancy until I was 15, I was trafficked and used in child sexual abuse material (also known as child pornography) which continues to be shared widely across the internet. I spend hours every day searching for my own content, reporting thousands of accounts and posts sharing CSAM,” said a CSAM survivor.
“When platforms don’t actively look for or prevent this content from being uploaded, the burden falls on me to have these images removed. Each time one account gets taken down, five more take its place. It’s like a hydra, a monster that I can never defeat.
“I’m not strong enough to take it down myself. It’s costing me my wellbeing, safety and maybe even my life. I’m tired. I shouldn’t find photos of myself as a child being raped when I’m just scrolling through my feed. I shouldn’t have to go looking for images of my own abuse. This isn’t my job.”
In the lead up to Twitter’s birthday on March 21, C3P is releasing a powerful video capturing the collective voices and raw emotion of these survivors. These real stories are told by actors in the effort to protect survivors from further trauma that occurs through doxxing and stalking. The film begins by wishing the social media giant a happy 15th birthday. The tone then begins to shift as the survivors recount their own experiences at that age—the abuse they suffered and the lengths they’ve gone to try and get Twitter to remove their CSAM from the platform. By the time it is removed a video can have thousands of views.
The birthday bash comes as the latest report from C3P, focusing on the ease of reporting CSAM, reveals that Twitter ranked poorly in all four categories analyzed. Specifically, the concerns raised in the study state that Twitter does not have an option to report CSAM directly from a Tweet, does not have an option to report a user for sharing CSAM from user name or profile page, and does not have an option to report such material directly from a DM.
Twitter reports instances of illegal child sexual abuse material to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). According to 2020 data from NCMEC, there has been a 41% increase in reports of CSAM from Twitter in just one year, which points to a potential escalation in the use of Twitter to make such content available.
Lianna McDonald, Executive Director for C3P, said: “At 15 children should be celebrating their birthday not desperately attempting to locate and report their own abusive imagery and videos. Survivors have even resorted to impersonating a parent or a lawyer when reporting and sometimes working with other users to ‘crowd source’ the report. All of these desperate efforts are an attempt to have quicker action and stop the spread of their own harmful content.”
Now is the time to not only call on Twitter to do better but all other online platforms to take action and prioritize the removal of CSAM. C3P is encouraging everyone to visit BirthdayPlea.com to learn more about the scope of the problem. Join in the fight by sharing the video, tagging @twitter and #TwitterBirthdayPlea, and call on the social media giant to do better.
Victims and survivors deserve better; we owe it to them.