Four Problems with Twitter’s Irresponsible Policy on Pornography

Is pornography allowed on Twitter?

In November of 2019, Twitter clarified its Sensitive Media Policy stating: “You may not post media that is excessively gory or share violent or adult content within live video or in profile or header images. Media depicting sexual violence and/or assault is also not permitted.”

This initially seems promising, however, they also stated: “You can share graphic violence and consensually produced adult content within your Tweets, provided that you mark this media as sensitive… If you don’t mark your media as sensitive, we will do so manually if your content is reported for review.” [emphasis added]

There are serious problems with Twitter’s policy on pornography…

  1. How does Twitter know that any of the pornography on its platform is “consensually produced?” It is impossible to tell from the content of a video, image, or tweet, whether force, fraud, psychological coercion, social manipulation, etc, were used to instigate it. Even mainstream pornography websites (i.e. an entire business model that supposedly revolves around “consensually produced” pornography) have been busted for hosting and profiting off of sex trafficking videos. It is impossible and ridiculous to assume that Twitter has any real metric to measure consent in any pornographic videos on its site, aside from complaints from victims (which by the way is an insufficient solution given that many people never know about nonconsensually shared pornography of themselves, and since an estimated one in 25 Americans have been a victim of this kind of sexual abuse.)
  2. Simply marking pornography as “sensitive media” actually means “anything goes,” which will increase the graphic rape, incest, and racist porn on Twitter. While some may look at the sensitive media filter as a positive step because it would supposedly cover the image/video, the reality is that it will only give cover to graphic and degrading content. Unfortunately, the most popular pornography often depicts rape, incest, racist themes, child-like themes, etc, which will continue to flourish on Twitter because they will be less visible to those who would report them, and even if users reported them Twitter would likely not take them down.
  3. Twitter does not allow “images depicting others as less than human” or “violent sexual conduct,” however that’s exactly what pornography is. Reams of research reveal the public health harms of pornography for its objectifying and demeaning portrayal of performers (women in particular) and for depicting, and even encouraging, sexual violence. Twitter is merely paying lip service to values it refuses to take action on.
  4. Twitter is facilitating sex trafficking and prostitution. Sometimes tweets with pornography in them are actually serving as advertisements for sex trafficked or prostituted persons. It has been documented by law enforcement that pimps and sex traffickers often either coerce trafficking or child sexual abuse victims into making such social media or advertising posts or create the posts themselves in their victim’s name. This is what was found to happen on Backpage.com—the notorious classifieds ads website that was recently shut down by the Department of Justice for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking.

Twitter’s policies and practices are allowing sexual exploitation to flourish, and this should no longer be tolerated.

Learn more and take action here.

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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