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Tests showed that Instagram, the popular social media platform owned by Meta, offered sexual content mixed with advertisements from major corporations to users who followed young people’s accounts on the platform.
Test accounts that followed “young gymnasts, cheerleaders and other teen and preteen influencers” received what The Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall) called “jarring doses of salacious content,” including videos of children and “overtly sexual adult videos.”
The Journal noted that many young people were followed on Instagram by adult men and that some of those men’s accounts also followed accounts that offered blatantly sexual content.
Following some of those men led Instagram’s algorithm to offer up even “more-disturbing content,” the outlet reported, alongside advertisements from companies that supposedly do not allow their ads to support such content.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection obtained similar results when it ran similar tests, the Journal said.
The Journal offered two specific, and somewhat disturbing, examples of its findings.
“In a stream of videos recommended by Instagram, an ad for the dating app Bumble appeared between a video of someone stroking the face of a life-size latex doll and a video of a young girl with a digitally obscured face lifting up her shirt to expose her midriff,” the Journal reported.
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