Instagram and OnlyFans are fueling an exploding illegal child trafficking industry online, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) wrote Tuesday to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in a letter obtained exclusively by Breitbart News.
“Instagram and OnlyFans.com are blatantly facilitating the purchase of child sexual abuse material (CSAM),” said Rep. Nehls. “This is completely unacceptable.”
Nehls’ letter alerts FTC Chair Lina Khan to the “unlawful activities” on the two platforms, asking for immediate investigation.
“Children should not be victims of crimes for the financial gain of social media companies. This is why I am calling on the FTC to immediately investigate both Instagram and OnlyFans.com and establish effective guardrails for credit card companies, such as Mastercard and Visa, who allow the purchase of content displaying the sexual abuse of children.
“We must do everything possible to protect our most vulnerable from this horrific Epstein Island-like industry and pursue their traffickers to the fullest extent.”
Each platform creates its own set of problems for law enforcement. The Congressman points to a study led by the Wall Street Journal concluding that “Instagram’s features, such as its hashtag system, algorithms, and search options, are facilitating the process of locating and purchasing child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
“Regrettably, even users who inadvertently encounter such material, and rightfully report it to the platform, are often suggested similar content by the platform’s algorithms.”
Nehls cites a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children report that 5 million of its 31.9 million reports of child pornography originated from Instagram in 2022.
OnlyFans.com’s subscription-based business model “has transformed the pornography industry,” writes Nehls. “The paywall enables traffickers, rapists, and other criminal elements to better evade detection.”
The paywall utilized by OnlyFans creates additional challenges for law enforcement, said Tim Palmbach, Executive Director of the Center for Investigations in Trafficking in Persons. “It is important for Congress to continue to call attention to these critical issues and encourage federal agencies to investigate and give law enforcement the tools needed to pursue these very complex cases.”
Credit card operators facilitate the ability of OnlyFans subscribers to “tip” in real time for requested content, often illegal, according to Nehls, whose letter argues this activity by credit card companies gives the FTC the regulatory authority to investigate them as well.
The founder and CEO of the Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative, Aaron Kehler, applauded Nehls for “his leadership in bringing attention to potential child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and child sexual exploitation (CSE) occurring on various online platforms to federal agencies with jurisdication to take a stance on protecting our most vulnerable.”
Nehls asks for immediate action from FTC given the “gravity” of the concerns. “Consideration must be given to appropriate regulatory or legislative remedies that can harmonize user privacy, platform business models, and the necessity for robust law enforcement mechanisms to stem the tide of horrific online child abuse and other illegal material.”
Follow Bradley Jaye on Twitter at @BradleyAJaye.
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