Twitter suspended 500K accounts for child sexual exploitation last year


Accounts Twitter took action against in the first half of 2021.



During the first half of 2021, Twitter took action against more than 4.8 million accounts — an enormous increase from the same period the year prior, when the company took action against just 1.9 million unique accounts. Most often (in about 1.6 million incidents) these actions pertained to violations of Twitter’s sensitive media policy, which essentially covers gory, violent, and sexually explicit content.

This wealth of data comes from Twitter’s latest transparency report, covering data collected from January through June of 2021. The company splits its reports — which are released biannually — into seven individual data categories: information requests, rules enforcement, removal requests, platform manipulation, copyright notices, trademark notices, and information operations.

The general uptick in moderation actions shows that, against all odds, Twitter’s moderation strategies are doing more to keep the platform in check than ever before. Of course, those high removal numbers could also mean there is simply more offending content to remove than in years prior.

Keeping it clean — Of the 4.8 million accounts actioned against during that six-month period, only 1.2 million of them were actually suspended. That points to many of the offending media being a first-time offense or just not severe enough to warrant a ban.

Number of accounts against which action was taken.Twitter

And though the majority of action taken against accounts had to do with sensitive media, most suspensions were rooted in a different cause: child sexual exploitation. Nearly half a million accounts were suspended for it. Twitter doesn’t play around in that arena.

Categories of content removed.Twitter

Sensitive media took the number-one spot again in relation to total content removed from Twitter, though hateful conduct and abuse/harassment gave it a run for its money. Those three categories comprised nearly 5 million content removal instances during the first half of 2021.

Government peep show — Twitter says it received more legal demands from governments around the world during this period than any other since it first began releasing transparency reports in 2012. More than 43,000 legal requests were filed between January and June of 2021, with more than 95 percent of those demands coming from Japan, Russia, Turkey, India, and South Korea. Japan topped the list with approximately 18,000 orders — about 43 percent of the period’s total.

Legal demands sent to Twitter.Twitter

Twitter only actually complied with about 54 percent of all government orders during this time frame. This seemingly low number is actually an 88 percent increase since Twitter’s last report. The company’s moderation and legal teams review each case individually.

Though Twitter certainly has sizable issues with controlling the spread of unwanted content across its platform, the company’s approach to moderation transparency is significantly more palatable than competitors’. Of course, we’d always like more transparency — but Twitter is setting a high bar here nonetheless. Just take a quick peek at Facebook’s Transparency Center if you don’t believe us.