New report documents how easily children can access graphic images of war

Violent and distressing images related to the conflict between Hamas and Israel, including graphic publications Researchers have found that images showing dead children and adults are easily accessible to young users on platforms such as Instagram.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a research group that studies online platforms, created accounts on Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat under the guise of 13-year-old British boys. In a 48-hour period from Oct. 14 to Oct. 16, researchers said, they found more than 300 problematic posts. More than 78 percent of the posts were on Instagram and about 5 percent were on Snapchat. The figures were published in a report on Wednesday.

The researchers said they turned on Instagram’s sensitive content control feature and TikTok’s restricted mode, which are meant to protect young users from potentially risky material, before conducting their searches.

Although policies and characteristics intended to protect more and more young people online, researchers found that creepy content wasn’t hard to find: 16.9 percent of posts that came up when searching for the hashtag “Gaza” on Instagram were graphic or violent, compared to 3 percent on TikTok and the 1.5 percent on Snapchat. Researchers found that TikTok’s search function sometimes auto-completed with phrases like “dead Gaza children” and “dead Gaza woman.”

“In times of conflict, where misinformation and disinformation are rampant, it becomes even more critical to protect young people from the potential emotional impact of such material and provide the support needed to process and contextualize this type of content,” Isabelle Frances-Wright . said one of the report’s authors, in an emailed statement.

Instagram owner Meta addressed her efforts to balance safety and expression on a blog post about the war on Friday. He noted that he established a special operations center with expert monitors working in Hebrew and Arabic, who removed or flagged more than 795,000 pieces of harmful content in the first three days of the conflict. The company also said that Instagram allows users to control the amount of sensitive content that is recommended to them.

on his own blog post Last weekend, TikTok said it had also opened a command center and added more Arabic- and Hebrew-speaking moderators, removing more than 500,000 videos and shutting down 8,000 live streams since the Hamas attack on October 7. The platform said it is automatically detecting and removing graphic and violent content, placing opt-in screens over disturbing images and adding restrictions to its live streaming feature amid the hostage situation.

Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, said in a statement that it will “continue to rigorously monitor” the platform and “determine any additional measures necessary to mitigate harmful content.” The platform does not have an open newsfeed or live streaming capabilities, limiting harmful content from going viral, the company said.

Amid an avalanche of publications about the war, some schools have urged parents to delete your children’s online accounts to protect them from Hamas’ attempts to psychological warfare. (Hamas accounts have been blocked by platforms like Instagram and TikTok, but remains active on Telegram.) Said the CEO of parenting app BrightCanary. USA Today that online searches for hostages among users between 9 and 13 years old increased by 2,800 percent in recent days.

Thierry Breton, a European Commission official who works on issues such as disinformation and digital regulation, letters sent last week urged TikTok, Meta and X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to mitigate a wave of false and violent images of the conflict in the Middle East.

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