Child sexual abuse survivors wish Twitter ‘Happy Birthday’ in chilling PSA

The campaign by Mischief @ No Fixed Address and No Fixed Address aims to raise awareness about child abuse images on Twitter.

Child abuse survivors have a message for Twitter on its 15th birthday.

In a PSA created by Mischief @ No Fixed Address and sister agency No Fixed Address, and amplified by Dini von Mueffling Communications, child safety nonprofit The Canadian Centre for Child Protection collected chilling testimonials from real child sex abuse survivors that are haunted by their images that continue to spread on the social platform.

Twitter doesn’t allow users to directly report tweets or direct messages containing child sexual abuse material, allowing the images to spread and cause ongoing trauma for survivors. 

The PSA, voiced by actors to protect survivors’ anonymity, starts off with birthday wishes for the platform on its 15th birthday, which one actor calls “such a fun age.” 

Another actor asks, “How are you going to celebrate?” to which a third actor responds, “I remember how I celebrated,” leading to disturbing recounts of sexual abuse that each survivor experienced on their own 15th birthdays and beyond. 

“My dad took out the video camera,” one actor says. “I met up with a guy online,” says another. “A friend of the family took pictures of me, like he did most days.” 

Survivors spend endless time and energy trying to get Twitter, which ranks poorly among social platforms on removing child abuse imagery, to take down the images that continue to haunt them across the web. 

And the problem is getting worse. Child sexual abuse material on Twitter has grown 41% in the past year, according to the National Centre For Missing and Exploited Children. 

“I managed to get out, but the videos of me keep popping up on your platform,” one actor continues in the PSA. “When I meet new people, I wonder if they recognize me,” another says. “One of the videos got tens of thousands of views on Twitter,” adds another.

“Those are the gifts you left for me,” another says, “for the rest of my life.”

“These survivors have had their childhoods torn from them — many much younger than the age Twitter is turning this year,” said Jordan Doucette, president at No Fixed Address, in a statement. “We see the birthday as a symbol in which we can spark meaningful conversation that leads to tangible change by putting enough pressure on platforms like Twitter to do more to protect our children online.” 

The campaign, launched Thursday, has since gotten pick-up from celebrities including Ricky Martin and The Big Bang Theory actor Mayim Bialik. Mischief also created an interactive map that shows how quickly child abuse imagery can spread on social platforms. 

“At 15, children should be celebrating their birthday, not desperately attempting to locate and report their own abusive imagery and videos,” said Lianna McDonald, executive director at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “Survivors have even resorted to impersonating a parent or a lawyer when reporting and sometimes working with other users to ‘crowd source’ the report. All of these desperate efforts are an attempt to have quicker action and stop the spread of their own harmful content.”

Twitter has not yet responded to the PSA, which the Canadian Centre for Child Protection posted on the platform with a direct call-out containing the hashtag #TwitterBirthdayPlea. 

“15,” the PSA ends. “Such a fun age.”

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