A recent undercover investigation by the Sunday Mirror has illustrated that hundreds of sex offenders are using Twitter in an attempt to locate young victims. The investigation led to the closure of 36 Twitter profiles and a dramatic dawn raid carried out by Scotland Yard resulting in the arrest of a man and a woman at their flat, the male had been working at the Olympics in London.
The Sunday Mirror commenced the investigation by creating a fake profile and inputting key words that paedophiles frequently use. This immediately led to one user, who described himself as "totally perverted with no morals”, making contact. The user further went on to state that he was in possession of a number of pictures and videos. Scotland Yard's Paedophile Unit was immediately contacted due and alerted about the individual, who was obviously in possession of child abuse material and potentially posing a threat to young users on the social network. After just 2 hours of the investigation being launched, a total of 200 users had expressed an interest in child abuse images.
The investigation demonstrates that paedophiles are routinely using Twitter as a means of messaging each other directly to discuss child abuse and as a means of sharing photos and videos. Twitter has over 500 million users worldwide with many of these users being young children who access the site to follow their celebrity idols; leaving themselves vulnerable to any sexual predators who may come into contact with them. Some users even have names which openly link them to child abuse, one under the name of "pedo-bear”. Others use pictures of semi-naked under age girls and boys alongside their usernames.
One individual was using a picture of a boy on a bed as his profile picture and another described himself as liking 12 year old girls. One of the befriended individuals asked about trading PTHC pictures and videos. PTHC is paedophile terminology for pre-teen hard-core. These findings demonstrate the true extent of what the site is being used for and are the tip of the iceberg illustrating the vulnerability of children across the country.
Politicians have now called for a complete cleanup of the site. Twitter is said to be 5 years behind Facebook when it comes to monitoring and policing and a more thorough investigation and clampdown is long overdue.
Enhancements in technology and the vast popularity of social networking sites such as Twitter now mean that individuals intent on committing sexual offences can contact children at the click of a mouse. There needs to be thorough policing of sites such as Twitter and Facebook to in order to clamp down on any illegal activity. The former Digital Minister Tom Watson has praised the recent investigation, stating that "social networks must remain vigilant and actively root out these circles of suspected child abusers.”
The recent investigation demonstrates that there needs to be more stringent measures in place to prevent individuals who are looking to groom children from using the site for the wrong reasons. Simply closing down the profiles of those suspected is insufficient as they can easily open up a new profile.
Here at Farleys we see sexual abuse of children far too often. There are a number of ways that children can be groomed, this can be over the internet or whilst living with a sexual abuse perpetrator. If you have been affected by any of the above issues then do not hesitate to get in touch with us to speak to a specialist solicitor who will advise you about how to make an abuse claim against an individual.
By Richard Yates, Trainee Solicitor