A single Instagram hashtag can uncover images of child sexual abuse

For the pedophiles, all it takes is a single hashtag to open the door to one of Instagram’s seediest corners where images of sexually exploited children reside. Sadly, these images are openly traded as if they were mere collectibles. In fact, our research found that finding images of sexually abused children is as easy as searching for a laptop on Craigslist.

The transactions were uncovered when the hashtag #dropboxlinks and other variants of the same were found by a group of teenagers. According to the reports, upon discovering the correct hashtags, users moved conversations to private messaging where they also swapped links of Dropbox folders that contained illicit imagery.

Bios on Instagram gave different messages including “young boys only” and “DM me for slaves.” However, all traders followed one specific rule – you send first.

For their part, Instagram confirmed the issue and said that they had restricted several of such hashtags. Unfortunately, many others remain and upon querying, Instagram claims that those accounts are not violating the platform’s terms of service.

Unhappy with the response, the group who found the hashtag initially decided to take matters in their hands and flooded the same hashtag with thousands of new images. This made it challenging for traders to find similar hashtags to swap links with.
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A few days after the problem surfaced, the hashtags appear to be dead. However, the accounts trading illegitimate images remain. Links in their bio suggest that many of them are attempting to move their operations to other platforms like Kik and WhatsApp. Some have even offered to sell their cache via PayPal or Bitcoin payment.

A Dropbox representative also expressed their concern regarding the issue and stated that they are working alongside Instagram and other sites to ensure the illicit content is taken down as soon as possible.

It takes an Instagram hashtag to uncover photos of child sexual abuse

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