WASHINGTON, DC (November 7, 2023) – Ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing with an Instagram whistleblower today, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) called on Congress to once and for all hold Meta accountable for years of knowingly endangering the safety and well-being of its teen users. Instagram is on NCOSE’s 2023 Dirty Dozen List of mainstream contributors to sexual exploitation.
As a (yet another) Wall Street Journal exposé on the predatory behavior on Instagram revealed, “One in eight users under the age of 16 said they experienced unwanted sexual advances on the platform over the previous seven days.”
“Two years ago, another Meta whistleblower called out Instagram for creating a ‘perfect storm’ of harm on the platform. Unfortunately, that ‘perfect storm’ has not abated – causing untold harm to children. Instagram’s algorithms target young people, damaging their self-esteem and mental health, which then makes them more vulnerable to exploitation. Then Meta provides the very tools and features for predators to easily target and access children. This vicious cycle must end, and Congress must demand accountability from Meta and all tech platforms that are hurting our children,” said Lina Nealon, Vice President and Director of Corporate Advocacy, National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
“Meta knows the harms exist, yet it has consistently shown that it prioritizes profit over the health, safety, and well-being of its youngest users. Instagram is repeatedly ranked among the most dangerous apps for children for a host of harms and risks – including multiple forms of sexual exploitation, such as child sexual abuse material (CSAM) sharing and sextortion. It is past time for Meta to change.
“Congress must step up to ensure that children and teens are truly protected on tech platforms by passing the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) that requires social media companies to enable the strongest safety settings by default and creates a duty of care for online platforms to prevent and mitigate harms to children. No child, no guardian is a match for social media platforms that ignore and even enable predatory behavior and unleash powerful algorithms that feed kids harmful content,” Nealon said.
Evidence of child sex abuse and exploitation on Instagram:
- #1 platform for the highest rates of sextortion (Instagram 42%, Snapchat 38%, “by far the most frequently used social media environments where victims were targeted” – Canadian Centre for Child Protection, August 2022)
- #1 platform minors reported potentially harmful experiences (Thorn Report, February 2023)
- #2 parent-reported platform for sexually explicit requests to children; Facebook named #1 (Parents Together report Afraid, Uncertain, and Overwhelmed: A Survey of Parents on Online Sexual Exploitation of Children, survey of 1,000 parents, April 2023)
- #2 platform where minors have had a sexual experience with an adult, tied with Kik and Tumblr (Thorn Report, February 2023)
- #2 for highest rates of minors reporting any sexual experiences (Thorn Report, Feb 2023)
- Only platform listed as “top 5 worst apps” in every single one of Bark’s Annual Report categoriestop 5 worst apps” in every single one of Bark’s Annual Report categories: severe sexual content, severe suicidal ideation, depression, body image concerns, severe bullying, hate speech, severe violence (Bark 2022 Annual Report analyzed more than 4.5 billion messages across text, email, YouTube, and 30+ apps and social media platforms)
- Instagram correlated with higher rates of parent-reported children sharing sexual images of themselves – a form of child sexual abuse material (Parents Together, April 2023)
About National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)
Founded in 1962, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) is the leading national non-partisan organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation such as child sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking and the public health harms of pornography.