Lisa Haba is a partner at Haba Law Firm in Florida. On Jan. 20, the firm, together with Matiasic Firm and the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center, filed a lawsuit against Twitter. The social media platform had refused to take down pedophilic content even after several victims’ requests.
The suit accuses Twitter of profiting from the exploitation of Haba’s client. In an interview with The Epoch Times, she narrated her client’s ordeal, John Doe (name withheld for anonymity), who is presently 17 years old.
When John Doe was 13, an abuser manipulated him to send nude photos of himself over Snapchat. John Doe mistakenly thought the person to whom he was sending the images was a 16-year-old girl. In reality, the “girl” was merely a fake identity created by online sex traffickers. Once these traffickers received his photos, they began blackmailing him. They threatened to send them to school leaders, parents, and pastors if he did not act as demanded. After he spent some time ‘complying,’ John Doe eventually broke away from the racket. He presumed that the ordeal was over.
But when he turned 16, John Doe noticed that some of the abusive content had appeared on Twitter. He only came to know about this from classmates who tortured him emotionally after watching the videos. John Doe became suicidal. His mother discovered the dangerous situation her son was in and gave him her full support. She contacted Twitter and requested that the abusive content be taken down.
However, Twitter refused to do so. They even said that the videos were not in violation of their policies, due to which “we’re going to take no further action.” It was only after the Department of Homeland Security took action that Twitter pulled the content down. However, by that time, the content had received over 2,223 retweets and more than 167,000 views.
Twitter profited from retaining abuse videos online
“There are known hashtags out there that are directly linked to child pornography and the distribution of it… Those hashtags are not only operational on Twitter, but if you type them into the search bar, it offers suggested phrases to help you find it more efficiently. When you look at the incredible quantity of material of that nature and how easy it is to find on the platform, you know the right hashtags. It’s horrifying,” Haba told The Epoch Times.
The concern about Twitter promoting pedophilia is not new. Last year, an Australian academic, Michael Salter, warned that Twitter had changed its policies to permit discussion about “attraction to minors.” A Twitter spokesperson dismissed the allegation, saying that they have a “zero-tolerance policy” for child exploitation. The company updated its policy, removing the idea that discussions related to attraction towards minors are permitted.
“Discussions related to child sexual exploitation are permitted, provided they don’t normalize, promote or glorify child sexual exploitation in any way… Depictions of nude minors in a non-sexualized context or setting may be permitted in a limited number of scenarios (e.g., artworks by internationally renowned artists that feature minors, news media reportage, media created and shared for scientific or educational purposes),” states Twitter policy.