Published on 17 Feb 2015

The porn dilemma facing Twitter

“Porn on Twitter?! I’ve never seen any.”

It’s a response I’ve heard repeatedly while researching the site’s thriving pornography scene. Because Twitter has no restrictions on porn (despite having around a million child users in the UK), it’s become a vital tool for models, performers and publishers to show their work, attract fans, and push traffic to money-making services such as webcam sex sites.


Our analysis suggests one in every thousand tweets contains a pornographic image: some of them explicit depictions of hardcore practices.


So how come you’ve never seen any? Well, that’s how the web works. Internet companies track and gather data about you, then use it to target you with exactly the stuff you’ve expressed an interest in. If you follow musicians and artists on Twitter, for example, you’ll tend to see music and art on your feed.

During my research I’ve followed dozens of porn models on Twitter, so now my feed looks, well… NSFW, as the saying goes.

No login needed

Should Twitter decide to do something about the porn on the site, they’ll face a challenge. Because they’ve never asked users to give their age on sign-up, if they now wanted to introduce age controls they’d have to go back to the entire Twitter user base and effectively ask them to re-register.

And even that wouldn’t fix the problem: you can look at Twitter without logging in, meaning age verification would be easy to bypass.

So Twitter would have two choices: force everyone to log in before viewing content, and introduce age verification. Or ban porn from the site altogether, meaning human moderators would have to look through as many as 25 million images a day.

Either option is costly, especially for a company that made a $125m net loss in the last quarter of last year.

Follow @geoffwhite247 on Twitter

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7 reader comments

  1. Tyger Doyle says:

    The appeal of Twitter remains mysterious, at least to this Internet inhabitant. I wish I could care about the rights and wrongs of what may be posted there, but resounding apathy regarding the whole egocentric mess of it sadly makes that impossible.

  2. Philip Edwards says:

    Geoff,

    Where sex is concerned I have always preferred practice to theory.

    Hence no need or desire for pornography.
    :-)

  3. Seani says:

    Good on Twitter for allowing porn and adult industry professionals on their site. It’s a great resource for finding such things. I can’t see a problem.

  4. Bill Bland says:

    So what you’re saying is that you deliberately went looking for pornography and found it, that the pornography in question doesn’t appear without you looking for it, and that for some reason you think this is newsworthy.

  5. tvnewswatch says:

    Adults in this country appear to contradict themselves when it comes to protecting their children from unsavoury content, be it on the Internet, television or elsewhere.

    Should such content, freely and easily accessible on the Internet, be broadcast on the television with only simplistic Are You Over 18 hurdles to pass through, there would be uproar. Yet online pornography websites often ‘trust’ in the ‘honesty’ of a user to click the Yes or No in order to access such sites or navigate away.

    As regards Twitter, Flickr and a whole plethora of websites even these restrictions, for what they’re worth, are almost non existent.

    It might sound like ‘nanny state’, but the only real way to protect children from such material is to create white lists, as well as black lists. ISPs could then block all inappropriate content to all accounts, which users may only access with a password which of course would only be supplied to account holders over the age of 18.

    China has gone a step further by block all such material and actively blocked any site where such material is found. Of course they also block politically sensitive material too, but by creating an ever increasing black list Chinese Internet users would be hard pressed to find any pornography online unless using a VPN or other circumvention software.

    Children as young as 8 have been found to be accessing such material on a regular basis and there are concerns that the psychological effect may create long term damage.

    Should the problem not be tackled it may not be too long before the West also goes down the same route as countries like China and create blanket bans.

    Parents surely have a responsibility, but in the modern age many children are becoming more computer savvy and able to get around restrictions their parents might apply.

  6. bob says:

    Geoff, I find you have leaped to conclusions on twitters options. It would be trivial for a machine to classify nude images and only those people who have explicitly opted to view porn/nudity would be allowed to view the flagged images.

  7. Dr Andrews says:

    I truly tire of the wasteful preoccupation with visual imagery of nude humans and physical acts of varying sexual descriptions between them. If the education system is so far behind managing worthwhile human and inter-social development of it’s charges, then my view is that the entire educational edifices in this country at least, are long overdue a complete restructuring – from top to bottom. I include everything from the training and selection of teaching and lecture staff, through to all curricula, from pre-school to post-graduate university courses, subjects, examinations and measuring of results and statistics therefrom. At every event, seminar or conference I have attended over the last 20 years or so, the same conclusions and mutual support/agreements repeat – EDUCATION! the route of all human experience ills! My question, simply, is who and when will true, high calibre philosophical, academic and intellectual clout be brought to bear – finally – on the eternal problems caused by generations of poorly educated individuals?

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