Beware! WhatsApp groups being used to spread child porn: All you need to know

By: | Published: December 21, 2018 12:56 PM

WhatsApp groups trading the child pornography are conspicuous and visible to anyone without requiring much effort

WhatsApp has become a medium to spread child porn (Source: Reuters)

WhatsApp is apparently serving as a conduit to spread child pornography among users, a new report claims. Secured using the end-to-end encryption technology that makes sure the messages shared on the platform are not subject to interception, content related to child porn is being circulated to several chat groups without moderation. This is questionable to the move taken by the parent company Facebook to doubled down its content moderation staff from 10,000 to 20,000 in 2018.

Read | How to delete WhatsApp account and still stay in touch with friends – Explained

According to TechCrunch that managed to get a hold of a report released by two NGOs from Israel, third-party apps used to find WhatsApp groups also offer an “Adult” section that houses various invite links for groups having users exchanging images of sexual offences against children, which is banned in almost all the countries. Moreover, some of these chat groups are presently active, TechCrunch noted after reviewing some of the materials found in the groups.

While the conversations carried out inside WhatsApp are secured by end-to-end encryption, Facebook checks the spread of illicit or objectionable content on WhatsApp, which, according to TechCrunch, was not properly executed this time. The report also mentions that the policing for child porn content would not have required bigger steps such as reducing the strength of encryption. The content was susceptible to being discovered manually by the moderators that Facebook added to its team this year.

WhatsApp groups trading the child pornography are conspicuous and visible to anyone without requiring much effort inside the group discovery app called ‘Group Links for Whats” published to the Google Play store by Lisa Studio. The group discovery app did little to no moderation for the group invite links available on its platform, as per the report. This app has now been removed from the Play store, although Google did not provide a comment to TechCrunch’s query.

There are active chat groups named “videos cp” (short for child porn), as seen on a screenshot shared by an anti-exploitation startup AntiToxin, says the report. AntiToxin further told TechCrunch that it found over 1,300 videos and images involving child porn.

WhatsApp, on being contacted by TechCrunch, said that the groups mentioned in the research are being looked into. “Keeping people safe on Facebook is fundamental to the work of our teams around the world. We offered to work together with police in Israel to launch an investigation to stop this abuse,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.

While child porn is legally unacceptable in most nations, which also binds the Internet services and apps to comply with the same, a WhatsApp spokesperson said legal adult pornographic content is allowed on the platform. Despite this, the company banned 130,000 accounts involved in spreading content on child exploitation in the past 10 days, the spokesperson told TechCrunch. The automatic moderation used by WhatsApp is not able to identify these chat groups that are openly in action. Even the staff of 20,000 members dedicating their efforts to manually moderating the content is falling short in front of the user base that’s over the 2-billion mark as of company’s latest data.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Switch to Hindi Edition