Recently, an effort has been gaining momentum to ban certain users, or at least usernames, from Twitter. Based exclusively on the tweets visible in their timelines these individuals appear to be pedophiles or at the very least attracted to children and pre-adolescents in a sexual way. Even worse, at least one of the accounts involved is, according to the bio, that of a 9-year-old girl.
Let’s be clear: as with all Twitter accounts, there is no way for users to know if these accounts represent real people talking about real events, or, giving the individuals behind these accounts the presumption of innocence they would get in an American criminal court, just indulging in fantasy. Not that it matters. Fantasizing about sex with children under the age of consent might not be illegal in the U.S. or other countries around the globe but it is certainly unacceptable or Twitter or anywhere else.
Twitter clearly, and repeatedly, states “Twitter is not for children under the age of 13.” For that alone the account of the alleged 9-year-old should have been disabled. As of this writing, it has not been.
Further, while getting these accounts disabled and these individuals banned from Twitter is an admirable demonstration of the self-policing social networks are capable and willing to do, it also raises questions regarding free-speech. At this time there is no evidence that these accounts and the individuals behind them are who they say they are or engaged in the actions described. Getting them banned from Twitter will not accomplish that either. Only reporting these individuals to law enforcement so they can be properly and legally investigated and evidence collected against them for possible criminal prosecution will put a stop to any criminal acts they may be engaged in. Twitter even encourages users to contact law enforcement in situations where users believe credible threats have been made, stating:
“We will investigate reports of violent threats but please remember we are not the police and we cannot actively work with the police to report incidents that you report to us.”
In the case of an alleged pedophile, one fantastic reporting resource is the cybertipline.org. This site, operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, provides a Congressionally mandated means of reporting crimes against children including, but not limited to online enticement of children for sexual acts and unsolicited obscene material sent to a child. The site also includes links for reporting children in immediate danger in Australia, Canada an the United Kingdom.
Reports may be made 24-hours a day, 7 days a week online at www.cybertipline.com or by calling 800-843-5678.
Tips my be made anonymously.
The primary focus of this grass-roots effort appears to be @fcklilgirls. Additional accounts that may be involved or affiliated with this individual are @thechildlover and @momwantsit. @JulieJj1977 is allegedly the 9-year-old daughter of @momwantsit. Julie’s account is private, however all the others are public and viewable by anyone.
At some point during the afternoon of 21 June, 2011 Julie’s account (the alleged 9-year-old girl) was deleted. It is unknown whether the account was deleted by the owner of the account or Twitter.
In addition, some sources have indicated that Twitter was investigating at least one of the accounts and had been in contact with law enforcement authorities. This information could not be confirmed at this time.
Both Julie’s and Mom’s accounts appear to have been deleted. The other two accounts remain active although there has been not recent public activity on either since 20 June, 2011. Private tweets between individuals, especially DMs and possibly mentions may not appear in the public timeline. Interestingly, the primary focus of the campaign, who had more than 400 followers at one point yesterday, now has none and is not following anyone. This could be a computer glitch or evidence of Twitter’s efforts to suspend/investigate the account.