It’s not rare for arrests to be made of people distributing child sexual abuse material on Twitter. Evil exists in the world, but it’s great when it’s stopped and not allowed to continue.
A female former child care worker was arrested for trying to sell child sexual abuse material on Twitter. Savannah Noel Hawthorne, 22, was arrested for distribution of child sexual abuse material and possession of child sexual abuse material, according to the Stillwater Police Department in Oklahoma. “On Friday June 3, 2022 SPD detectives, along side with Enid and OSBI, served a warrant in Enid in the Hawthorn residence where Hawthorn was arrested,” said Lt. T.J. Low.
Unfortunately, every single piece of child sexual abuse material imagery includes a minor being sexually abused. It is something stolen from each victim that they can never get back. To make matters worse, it’s been documented and often shared. In some cases, for the child being sexually abused in the imagery, time is of the essence. It can be a matter of life or death to locate them and get them out of an abusive situation as quickly as possible. In 2021, Twitter made 86,666 reports of child sexual abuse material to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
This next case stood out to me right away, because it’s particularly egregious on multiple levels. On June 9, 2022, Nitikorn Manop, 29, was arrested in the Cha-am district, Phetchaburi, of Thailand. The suspect was charged with human trafficking, child exploitation, and production and distribution of child pornography, Pol. Maj. Gen. Wiwat Khamchamnarn, head of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division, said on June 12. What stood out about this story is that this predator operated on Twitter for four years and had 290,000 Twitter followers. He allegedly used Twitter in some cases to lure minors. He would sexually abuse minors, film them without their consent, and often post the abuse on the Twitter main feed. He also reportedly sold links and access to a subscription model for others to have access to view this abuse. Why did it take so long to catch this predator? How much advertising revenue was created for Twitter by this profile, specifically using child sex abuse as the content?
In four years of operating openly on Twitter, there were no reports on this specific account made by concerned Twitter users or survivors? If there were reports made on this account, were they ignored or, worse, reviewed and left up, as we’ve seen in the cases of John Doe #1 and Joe Doe #2 Twitter case?
In a situation where there are no reports, why didn’t Twitter’s proprietary tools catch this predator? The technology that Twitter uses can most certainly scan for keywords, account behaviors, and suspicious activity. We’ve seen very real examples of how advanced this technology is during COVID-19, the Hunter Biden story, and anything to do with election fraud, so why would Twitter fall short in this case?
Those issues would have been classified as “harmful” by Twitter, but isn’t child sexual abuse imagery harmful? It’s harmful to the victims and harmful to people who inadvertently stumble on this content. It’s not as if they didn’t have a heads-up that this type of behavior was a problem. In May 2020, a similar case occurred with Twitter. “The man, Thai media reports as ‘Kittiphong’, uploaded and sold the child pornography on Twitter and the messaging app Line. He had a membership fee of 350 baht, or around $11 USD. Authorities gained information through the online reporting system CyberTip, the Chiang Rai Times reports. Police from immigration, anti-trafficking division and the Thailand Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force raided Kittiphong’s room in Bangkok and found 8 cell phones with photos of children. The background of the photos matched the man’s room. He was arrested and charged with child pornography for financial exploitation. He is also facing charges of sexually abusing children 13 years old and younger.”
I suggest that Twitter stop trying desperately to control the political narrative around the issues of the moment and innovate around these issues that matter. Invest in this issue of detecting, removing, and reporting child sexual abuse material, because it has real-world consequences when platforms fall short in response time. I spoke about these issues and possible solutions in a recent article for TheBlaze.
The children abused often have no voice, so we must speak for them until they have the opportunity to speak for themselves. Speaking about these issues applies pressure on tech companies like Twitter to make changes. Hopefully we can start to prevent these crimes before they happen, and if they do happen, tech companies must act in a timely fashion.