A Birmingham criminologist has criticised social networking site Twitter amid concerns some paedophiles were using it to discuss abuse and link to sexual images of children.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), set up to tackle the sexual exploitation of children in the UK, said the site’s child protection policies were lagging behind other major social-networks.
Twitter insisted that safety was a high priority for the company but it has been criticised by a former detective for taking too long to remove accounts.
Mark Williams-Thomas, criminologist and child protection expert at Birmingham City University, claimed some users had still been active on the site days or even weeks after they have been reported to the firm.
“There’s always going to be a problem with social networking sites, as where there is an opportunity offenders will seek that out,” said Mr Williams-Thomas.
“Clearly what Twitter needs to do is to take responsibility for its users. And when they identify there is somebody promoting child abuse material, swapping it or even discussing it the site must come down straight away.”
Ceop has now called on the site to do more to address the issues.
Twitter insisted it dealt with complaints as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
“When we receive a report and identify it as valid, we take action immediately,” said Del Harvey, Twitter’s director of trust and safety. Accounts being reported may be the subject of law enforcement investigations.
“In those instances, while the profiles are certainly disturbing, removing them immediately can actually harm the cases that law enforcement may be attempting to build.”
The company says it plans – within the next few months – to have a team working 24 hours a day in order to investigate complaints.
Facebook and Bebo have both worked with Ceop to introduce so-called panic buttons, allowing users to report their concerns by simply clicking a single link.
“They are a little bit behind some other sites that have been around a little bit longer,” says Peter Davies the chief executive of Ceop.