Twitter could face billions in fines over not protecting minors from porn: ex-FTC officials

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The Post has learned that Twitter allegedly failed to sufficiently police underage pornography on its social network — risking a federal investigation that could land the company in billions of dollars in fines.

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The embattled social media site — which is in the middle of a court battle with Elon Musk to enforce a deal to sell him the company for $44 billion — with the Federal Trade Commission when the company reportedly found A so-called consent decree may have been broken. In an internal study this year that it does not adequately deter underage users from viewing and uploading porn, two former FTC officials told The Post.

Notably, Twitter executives reportedly found an internal study that the company lacks adequate controls to prevent underage users from accessing and uploading pornography, as of Aug. story in the verge, which cited the findings of an internal Twitter team. Unlike other major social media companies, Twitter allows porn on its site.

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Internal researchers reportedly said that the site is consistently unable to detect banned content such as child porn, revenge porn and non-consensual “upskirt” photos after they have been uploaded to the site.

According to the Verge, the researchers wrote in April, “Twitter may not accurately detect child sexual abuse and non-consensual nudity.”

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While regulators have so far not responded publicly to the report, Twitter’s failures may stem from its commitments under a consent decree signed in 2011, which required that Twitter take steps to protect the safety and privacy of users. For “will not misrepresent”. , former FTC officials said. According to officials, alleged problems with porn moderation may qualify as undisclosed user privacy and security issues.

Former FTC officials say Twitter is at risk of a Federal Trade Commission investigation and fined over its alleged porn problem.
AFP via Getty Images

Spokesmen for Twitter and Musk declined to comment. The FTC did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to the Verge’s story, Twitter said it has “zero tolerance for child sexual abuse.”

“We aggressively fight online child sexual abuse and have made significant investments in technology and tools to implement our policy,” the company said. “Our dedicated team works to stay ahead of rogue actors and help ensure we are protecting minors from harm – both on and offline.”

‘without hesitation’

In an exclusive interview with The Post, former FTC chairman William Kovacic called on the FTC, which he said has a mission to protect consumers, to promptly investigate the allegations. Twitter could be fined $5 billion if it is found to have violated the consent decree by failing to protect underage users, he said.

Twitter is subject to an FTC consent decree until 2031.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“There should be no hesitation,” Kovacic said of the potential FTC investigation.

Kovacic was one of five FTC commissioners who signed the 2011 consent decree—which followed a pair of major hacks that the FTC blamed for a “serious lapse in the company’s data security”— Twitter was required not to mislead consumers about security and privacy. It remains in effect till 2031.

Another former FTC official, who asked not to be named, also told The Post that Twitter’s alleged underage porn problem should be immediately investigated by the agency, which is currently led by anti-Big Tech stalwart Lena Khan. Is.

The former FTC official said that underage users’ access to porn was a priority for the FTC when it drafted the 2011 consent decree, but it appears the company did not do enough to meet its commitments. Is.

If Twitter cannot “control” which users view or upload porn, the ex-FTC official said, “then it is reasonable to conclude that they are not misrepresenting users’ safety and privacy.” to violate the 2011 prohibition.”

Kovacic said the FTC fines a company partly based on how long it has not complied with a consent decree. If the agency determines that Twitter has been out of compliance for more than 10 years, he said the fine could be in the range of $5 billion — roughly the equivalent of the entire 2021 revenue.

“There should be no hesitation,” former FTC chairman William Kovacic said of a possible FTC investigation into Twitter’s alleged porn problem.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

implications for musk

The Verge reported that Twitter found alleged problems with age verification, while it considered a plan to boost revenue this spring by launching an OnlyFan-style feature that allowed Twitter users to sell filthy photos and videos. Will give

Twitter reportedly assigned a team of 84 employees to pressure test the idea. The team reportedly found that Twitter already lacked the ability to prevent underage users from viewing or uploading porn – and that paying users for porn would make the problem worse.

After the researchers presented their findings, the company reportedly shelved the project because it focused on a messy takeover battle with Musk.

Now, a source close to the court battle said Musk’s legal team is expected to try to seize a potential FTC investigation and fines as part of an effort to end his $44 billion takeover deal.

In addition to the porn issue, famed hacker Peter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former chief of security, recently filed an explosive whistleblower complaint alleging that Twitter is a risk to national security — allegations that have prompted the FTC and other U.N. .s. agencies.

Still, two university law professors told The Post that porn allegations are unlikely to make a big difference in a court case. Kovacic said the FTC typically takes four to six months to investigate violations and impose fines. Meanwhile, the trial is scheduled to begin on October 17.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk’s legal team is expected to try to seize a potential FTC investigation as part of an effort to end his $44 billion takeover deal.
NTB/AFP via Getty Images

The possibility that Twitter violated an FTC consent decree isn’t enough to help Musk because the language in the merger agreement requires a higher standard, said Robert Miller, president of the University of Iowa Corporate Finance and Law.

“The judge needs to know when the FTC wants to act and what he wants to consider in this case,” said Boston College professor Brian Quinn, who specializes in mergers and acquisitions. Unless the FTC conducts an investigation much faster than usual, it is unlikely that a judge will have such information until the trial opens.

And even if Musk’s team can show the FTC is likely to be fined, Miller said the fine should be large enough to adversely affect content on Twitter, which usually means reducing its value by about 20%.

Twitter
Twitter wants to force Elon Musk to go through with a $44 billion acquisition deal.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

“The one-time penalty, even a large fine, does not substantially reduce earnings,” Miller said.

Instead of helping Musk rescind his Twitter takeover, underage allegations of pornography may ultimately hurt him. If the Delaware courts force him to forgo the deal, any FTC fines imposed after the acquisition will probably be his problem.

whistleblower comments

Whistleblower Jatko was asked about child porn allegations during a lengthy Congressional testimony on Tuesday.

“There were discussions about age-related information and the discussions I heard internally were concerns about a lack of tools to properly regulate or obfuscate [underage content]Zatko said in response to a question from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) about Twitter’s porn plans.

Peter Zatko
Twitter whistleblower Peter “Mudge” Zatko said, “I’ve heard there were concerns about a lack of tools to properly regulate or disrupt [underage content],
Washington Post via Getty

Marsha Blackburn (R-Ten.) told Zatko that an internal Twitter team found they had too much child and non-consensual pornography that was on the site — an apparent reference to the Verge report. Jatko replied that he was not aware of any such team but “unfortunately it doesn’t surprise me.”

The whistleblower said he did not deal with porn on Twitter, but knew that some of the site’s advertisers had raised concerns about their ads appearing next to adult content.

Zatko repeatedly alleged that Twitter misled the FTC about its compliance with a 2011 consent decree by infringing user privacy with reference to pornography. He called on the antitrust regulator to take a tough stand against Twitter and other tech firms.

“I believe the FTC is a little over their heads when compared to the size of Big Tech companies,” he said. “They’re letting companies grade their homework.”

In response to Zatko’s testimony, Twitter said: “Today’s hearing only confirms that Mr. Zatko’s allegations are full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies.”

Twitter may pay a $150 million fine to the FTC for breaking a consent decree after regulators accused the company of collecting phone numbers and emails for security purposes and then accidentally sharing that data with advertisers. I agreed.

company Told At that time “certain email addresses and phone numbers provided for account security purposes may have been inadvertently used for advertising” and pledged to “continue partnership with the FTC.”



Credit: nypost.com /

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