Twitter’s flexible standards — free speech vs child pornography

Tech giant Twitter knowingly allowed the distribution of images of the sexual exploitation of a minor, a lawsuit filed in federal district court last week alleges. “Where were Twitter’s much-vaunted ‘community standards,’ in this case?” asked Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., founder and president of the Ruth Institute.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center is one of the legal groups representing the victim and his mother. The court filing says the plaintiff, now 17, was coerced into providing videos of himself and another minor engaged in sex acts when he was 13, under duress by sex traffickers.

Morse charged:

“The victim was appalled when he discovered that these videos were posted on Twitter. His mother contacted the company and demanded they be taken down. Twitter did nothing until the video had more than 167,000 views. Only direct involvement by law enforcement caused Twitter to act.

“Whenever it wants to ban conservatives, including former President Trump, Twitter says its sacred community standards have been violated, usually based on a vague charge of promoting violence. But apparently those standards do not include the sexual exploitation of children.”

Morse noted: “In 2019, Twitter changed its terms of service to allow paedophiles to openly discuss their urges, as long as ‘they don’t promote or glorify child exploitation in any way.’ How that can be accomplished is a mystery.” Twitter even has a designation for these individuals — MAP (minor-attracted persons). “Sounds real cozy,” Morse observed.

Last year, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and three of his colleagues filed the Survivors of Human Trafficking Fight Back Act. This Act creates a private cause of legal action which would allow victims to sue websites that knowingly post videos that depict forced sex acts, including those performed under duress. Perhaps not coincidently, Sen. Hawley has been one of social media’s most trenchant critics. The senator has also been the subject of a “blacklisting” attempt by over 250 publishing outlets.

“The pain of sexual exploitation never goes away,” Morse said. “In this case, it’s alleged that Twitter added to that pain at least 167,000 times — probably more, since nothing disappears from the internet.”

A 2019 survey by the Internet Watch Foundation found that Twitter hosted almost half of all child abuse material found in the United Kingdom.

“We look forward to the outcome of this case,” Morse said. “Meanwhile, the next time Twitter cites its ‘community standards’ as an excuse for banning a conservative, remember just how hypocritical these ‘standards’ are.”

[Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels]

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