Before an Edit button, Elon Musk must stop Twitter’s hosting of child sexual abuse

What Elon Musk may or may not do with—or to—Twitter is the trending topic worldwide (and likely at the space station low pressurized hose water cooler). 

NCOSE has been zeroed in on Twitter for years, as it is one of the most prolific mainstream corporate facilitators of sexual abuse and exploitation. It’s a platform where predators and pedophiles go to trade in child sex abuse material and nonconsensual pornography. It’s the go-to place for sex buyers to connect with pimps selling people and to find “sugar babies” (i.e. young, financially struggling women to exploit for sex). And child-, rape-, and incest-themed pornography is easily found. 

Despite all of this, Twitter doesn’t seem concerned about allowing criminal content and accounts to prosper and ignoring victims when they ask Twitter to remove images of their abuse and trauma. (For examples of evidence NCOSE researchers have collected of the above harms on Twitter, visit our “proof” section here.)

Personal or political thoughts on Elon Musk and his agenda aside, should he ultimately purchase Twitter we hope he would use his influence and penchant for accomplishing what others deem impossible to finally eliminate sexual exploitation from the platform. 

A primary motivation for his potential deal may be more ideologically than financially driven: his goal (at least what he is sharing publicly) is to remake the Twitter “town square” into a safe place for unfettered free speech. What he considers to be within the parameters of free speech is a whole other conversation, but at the very least he has clarified that by “free speech” he means “that which matches the law.”

If @elonmusk wants to make Twitter a better place, he should start with clearing out the child sexual abuse material and image-based sexual abuse that runs rampant. [Tweet This]

Twitter is rampant with activity that is very clearly against the law: Child sex abuse material is openly traded and even found natively on the site. Users advertise prostitution – often under common euphemisms and combinations of emojis well-known to signify people for sale. Prostitution is illegal in the United States (barring a few counties in Nevada) and so is advertising for the sale of sex. Image-based sexual abuse (IBSA) – which includes “revenge porn” – is common. The most recent and deeply-disturbing IBSA trend on Twitter being “c*m tributes” as men obtain images of women and girls—often without their knowledge or consent—masturbate to completion onto the photo, and then post the image publicly and/or send it to the victim or post it on her account. Such images are clearly abusive, illegal, and violate the policies Twitter has on paper, yet some of these accounts have managed to rack up more than 10,000 followers.

And while it is true that some pornography in the United States has been considered legal, and Twitter allows such pornography, its policy is highly problematic and not enforced. Much of the pornography found on Twitter—or that Twitter leads to—is not protected by the First Amendment. (Here’s a quick primer on federal pornography laws.) Additionally, Twitter requires no meaningful age or consent verification of those posting or selling pornography on its platform, so it’s impossible to know if the sexually graphic images and videos one is viewing or buying is consensual.

At a time when child sexual abuse and violence against women (including technology-based abuse) is at an all-time high, should Elon Musk (a father of seven children) move forward in his purchase of Twitter, he could eliminate a favorite tool in the arsenal of exploiters and those who seek pleasure in sharing and watching the rape, abuse, and degradation of children and vulnerable adults. Once again, he would be not only setting industry standards but utterly shaking up the industry, assumptions of what is possible, and changing culture. He would be a true hero, not least to the countless survivors, many of them very young, who have suffered abuse on Twitter and have had their privacy utterly violated over and over again, their speech silenced and ignored.

For this man—who has at times been hailed for achieving what most deem impossible—ending exploitation on Twitter would be among his most odds-defying and visionary act yet.


The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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