Private TikTok accounts harbor child exploitation content on platform

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An investigation by Forbes has revealed that TikTok has a rampant child sexual exploitation issue, with the platform allowing predators to groom minors and share illegal images through private accounts despite the popular social media app claiming to have a “zero tolerance” policy for child sexual abuse material.

The illegal child sexual exploitation goes on in “post-in-private” accounts, which are explicitly forbidden by TikTok’s security policies but nevertheless exist in abundant quantity. 

“There’s quite literally accounts that are full of child abuse and exploitation material on their platform,” child sexual abuse survivor and children’s safety advocate Seara Adair told Forbes. “Not only does it happen on their platform, but quite often it leads to other platforms – where it becomes even more dangerous.”

Adair’s first encounter with the “posting-in-private” type of account occurred in March when someone made public a video that had been shared into the private TikTok account @My.Privvs.R.Open. The video was of a pre-teen “completely naked and doing inappropriate things.” Adair immediately reported the video, but TikTok responded that they “didn’t find any violations.”

In a video posted the next day, Adair explained that the video had been made public accidentally by a member of the closed group for predators, and had since been set to private again rather than deleted.

In an email to Forbes, a TikTok spokesperson claimed the social media platform has zero tolerance for such material and “abhorrent behavior,” and stated that whenever they become aware of such content, they “remove it, ban accounts, and make reports” to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. TikTok also claimed that all videos are subject to the platform’s AI content moderation.

The investigation revealed how easy it is for predators to get around TikTok’s guidelines. Instead of using the phrase “posting in private,” which would be flagged as a violation, “algospeak,” or deliberately typing with typos like “postinprvts” or “pos.t.i.privs,” would be used to avoid triggering the algorithm, and Adair believes users are posting a black screen for a few seconds at the beginning of the illegal videos to trick the AI.

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