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I have been using Twitter for a long time now. Like most people, when I first signed up to the site I found it overwhelming. I wasn’t sure who all these people were, what the flurries of text were that whizzed passed my eyes, and who I was supposed to follow. I found the opinions, hammered frantically into keyboards and phones, to be intimidating. People so full of certainty that they are correct and moral, and all who disagree with them are bigoted or ignorant, that I wasn’t convinced I would ever find a social media home there.

However, I, as with millions of others, soon learned to navigate the platform. I followed people I admired, learned news as it unfolded. I used it for work, reaching audiences with my books and writing that I could never have otherwise found. Impossible though it may seem, given what a hellscape of hostility it is, I even made friends. Women I have met in person, who have met my children, stayed in my home. Good people whom I came to love and trust implicitly.

Therefore, when I say this, please trust that I am not just “anti-Twitter”, or perhaps inexperienced and not able to use it correctly:

Twitter has a porn problem.

Twitter’s terms of service state this: Twitter requires people using the service to be 13 years of age or older. And yet there are no restrictions on adult content being displayed on the platform.

Recently, Stephen Bear, a reality “star”, began posting videos of himself and his girlfriend performing various sex acts. Graphic, undisguised, porn. Despite numerous complaints about the videos, nothing was done. The videos remained public. A celebrity who 13-year-olds could easily seek out due to his popularity sharing unrestricted porn.

I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not porn is moral, that’s a conversation for another time. But I am going to put my flag in the sand on this issue;

If you make your platform available to minors, then you have to make your platform safe for minors.

Parental Responsibility?

When I’ve talked about this issue previously, which I am prone to doing, I have been told in no uncertain terms that if parents let their children use Twitter then it’s their fault if those children see porn. But this is, in my opinion, a ridiculous statement. It is not the parent’s fault that adults refuse to respect children’s safety. It is not the children’s fault that their parents allow them to use Twitter.

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The fault lies squarely with the creators of adult content that don’t restrict access, and with Twitter for not forcing them to do so. If Twitter were accessible only to over 18’s, with appropriate protections in place to be sure, then perhaps allowing unrestricted would be more acceptable. But it isn’t. It’s marketed at age 13 and up. Open access porn has no business being available to children, and it’s tantamount to sexual abuse to allow it.

Porn Used As A Weapon

When JK Rowling famously requested children send in their artwork inspired by The Ickabog, certain activists used it as an opportunity to protest against her views on women’s rights. On threads where parents proudly posted their children’s pictures in hopes that their literary hero would see them, protestors posted porn. Sexual images of rage on pictures drawn by children.

Again, my argument was that the activists were at fault. Parents accessing the posts to see the encouraging and kind comments by fans of JK Rowling, their children at their side full of hope and joy, to be met with pornographic images. Again I was told that it’s the parent’s fault for letting their children see.

The platform is marketed at children. The content was designed for children. Porn was used as a weapon on a platform, and on posts, marketed at children. And it could so easily have been avoided.

Fix The Issue

Now Jack Dorsey as stepped down as CEO, perhaps the heads of Twitter will take steps to fix the issue. And it’s so easily done. You don’t have to ban porn. You have to make porn only accessible the adults who wish to see it. I don’t want to, I feel like it’s forced on me without my consent, but I’m an adult. I know what’s going on and I can block and move on. But children are damaged by exposure to porn at a young age.

“For young women, viewing pornography is linked with higher rates of sexual harassment and forced sex. This may be because young people may not have the opportunity to compare what they see in pornography with real life and they may be more susceptible to internalising the distorted images and modifying their behaviour accordingly.”CARE.org

Safeguarding children needs to be made a priority in any space children exist. Require a proof of age. Require consent. Once both are given, then porn can be shared as freely as it is now, safe in the knowledge that (at least the majority accepting fraud can’t always be prevented) viewers are legally and consensually able to view the content. And any users who refuse to respect these rules, and therefore choose to put children at risk, can be banned.

Twitter has a porn problem and it’s time to fix it. Refusing to make the platform safe for the demographic you are selling it to goes beyond laziness. It is abusive. And I hope that the change of leadership will see action taken.

JJ x

Website: https://jjbarnes.co.uk
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