September 26, 2022

ONE Forbes The report raises questions about how TikTok’s moderation team handles child sexual abuse material — claiming it was granted broad, unsecured access to illegal photos and videos.

Employees of a third-party monitoring company called Teleperformance, which works with TikTok among other companies, claim it asked them to review a troubling spreadsheet called DRR, or Daily Required Reading, in TikTok’s moderation standards. The spreadsheet allegedly contained content that violated TikTok’s guidelines, including “hundreds of images” of children being naked or abused. Employees say hundreds of people at TikTok and Teleperformance could have accessed the content from both inside and outside the office — opening the door to a wider leak.

Telecast rejected Forbes that it showed employees sexually exploitative content, and TikTok said its training materials have “strict access controls and do not include visual examples of CSAM,” though it did not confirm that all third-party vendors met that standard.

Employees tell a different story, and as Forbes states, it is legally dangerous. Content moderators are usually forced to deal with CSAM being posted on multiple social media platforms. However, images of child abuse are illegal in the US and should be treated with caution. Companies are supposed to report the content to the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), then keep it for 90 days, but minimize the number of people who see it.

The allegations here go far beyond that limit. They indicate that Teleperformance showed employees graphic photos and videos as examples of what should be highlighted on TikTok while playing fast and loose with access to that content. An employee says she contacted the FBI to ask if the practice constituted criminal CSAM dissemination, though it’s unclear if it was opened.

The full Forbes report is worth a read, describing a situation where moderators couldn’t keep up with TikTok’s explosive growth and were asked to track crimes against children for reasons they feel don’t add up. Even by the complicated standards of child safety on the Internet, it’s a strange—and if accurate, terrifying—situation.

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