Instagram: a platform where pedophile networks continue to grow

Research by the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal shows that many pedophile networks are active on Instagram. In collaboration with Stanford and Massachusetts Amherst universities, research is being done into the sale and sharing of child abuse material. According to the parent company Meta, too little is indeed being done to counter the material. Despite the efforts to prevent the spread of child abuse, this is not enough.


You are probably familiar with algorithms on social media channels. These ensure that users see as much content as possible that may match their area of ​​interest. This seems quite innocent and is also nice for users, because the content matches the needs and interests. However, when it comes to things like pedophilia, it is harmful and should be able to be controlled and stopped. Thanks to the algorithm, users who look up images of child abuse see more and more similar images.

The research

To conduct the research, new profiles on Instagram were created by the researchers. These new accounts sought out specific hashtags used by other profiles to promote child abuse. These hashtags allow users to connect with each other to spread images. After visiting only a few profiles, the researchers’ accounts were flooded with profiles of people promoting child abuse. They received links to external websites where child abuse material is traded. There was also a lot of material that sexualizes children.

Malicious platform

In addition to Instagram, several social media channels were investigated. According to the researchers, Instagram is by far the most popular. It is therefore a platform where explicit material of child abuse is offered. Instagram is also seen by the researchers as a stepping stone to places where explicit material is offered.

Special Working Group

Meta has announced that it is doing everything it can to prevent the spread of such material. For example, users who sell and distribute these images will be blocked. Meta has set up a special working group that is working on this. In the past two years, they say, 27 pedophile networks have already been taken offline.

The Wall Street Journal’s research has shown that this is not enough. According to the newspaper, there are employees and former employees who have made statements about this. For example, it appears that the Instagram profiles that promote child abuse material are followed by millions of accounts. These accounts seem to be growing, rather than declining.

Center of Expertise Online Abuse

So algorithms can be harmful. There is still little enforcement regarding such accounts and this gives pedophiles free rein. Despite Meta’s efforts, not enough is being done to prevent the spread of child abuse. Fortunately, there are several initiatives that are committed to the sexual abuse of minors. Offlimits (Expertise Center for Online Abuse) contributes to a cleaner internet, with various hotlines to combat such images. In addition, they do prevention and help victims of online transgressive behavior.

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