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‘Dirty Dozen’ list of companies keeps exploitative, illicit content rolling as profits pile up amid captive pandemic audience

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This is an image for the 2021 "Dirty Dozen" list released Feb. 23, 2021, by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. (CNS photo/courtesy Kelly Oliver)

WASHINGTON — There were dozens of companies that came under consideration for the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of companies produced by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation that profit from pornography.

But in the past year, with the pandemic driving much of the U.S. population to one screen or another, it was 12 firms’ profiting that raised the group’s ire.

As a result, some mighty familiar names are on the 2021 Dirty Dozen list, revealed during a Feb. 23 conference call with reporters — like Netflix, Twitter, Amazon and Google’s Chromebooks.

While Amazon removed all sales of sex dolls from its platform and instituted parental control features for Amazon Prime Video last year — “we’re quite frustrated that it took so long,” said Dawn Hawkins, a senior vice president at the center — the e-commerce giant still peddles “copious amounts of sexual exploitation,” she added.

Amazon Prime “inserts gratuitous nudity and sexual content” in its own productions, Hawkins said, while Amazon Web Services also plays host to “hardcore pornography and prostitution websites,” she said.

Twitch, Amazon’s livestreaming platform, has tripled in size since the coronavirus pandemic started last March. Twitch is meant for livestreaming, according to Hawkins. But among its 92 million users are those committed to “predatory grooming and child sexual abuse,” she said.

Most of the abusers “have been allowed to remain active on the platform” as Amazon has been slow to eject them, Hawkins added. “It’s not just a matter of capability but responsibility on Twitch and Amazon’s part … to re-create a safe and harassment-free culture,” she said.

Netflix produces “sexually degrading content,” said Lina Nealon, the center’s director of corporate and strategic initiatives. Its productions feature “gratuitous nudity and graphic sexual violence,” she added.

Twitter, Nealon said, is “rife with sexual exploitation,” as it features “countless instances of pornography” and facilitates the trading of child sexual abuse material. She added, “Twitter must be held legally accountable” for this content.

Google’s Chromebooks came in for special scorn because the laptop computers provided the online connections between students and their teachers once the pandemic struck.

Nealon said 40 million Chromebooks were in use prior to the pandemic, and that 2020 shipments of the computer were double that of 2019. But Chromebook corporate parent Alphabet, which hit a trillion-dollar market capitalization last year, refused to proactively turn on safety features as default settings, according to Nealon.

Instead, the work is left to “overwhelmed schools and parents,” she said. She described a vicious cycle: “Underfunded districts are often funding the most marginalized communities,” Nealon said, and “don’t have the resources to buy additional filters for their children.”

IT departments, she added, are “confused by the many steps required to turn them (the safety features) on. Sometimes schools lock the devices and parents can’t get into them. There are endless threads of IT administrators … not sure if they’re doing things correctly.”

Meanwhile, “teens are telling each other how to find loopholes and bypass IT departments,” Nealon said, although the forbidden fruit is not as enticing as it was thought to be. Nealon pointed to a Washington Post article in December profiling the effects on “two children who were exposed to countless amounts of pornography due to finding pornography on their Chromebooks.”

Nealon said she herself received an email from the mother of a home-schooled girl in California. “She wasn’t able to protect her daughter, who found loopholes in Chromebooks, and predators got through to her daughter.”

And that’s just four of the Dirty Dozen.

Reddit, a popular social media site, made the list. It “has become a hub of exploitation where sex buyers and other sexual predators meet to exchange nonconsensually shared intimate images, hardcore pornography, and to give advice to each other about how to use and abuse,” the center said in a Feb. 23 news release.

“Reddit refuses to institute strong policies and, despite being worth $3 billion, refuses to spend money on moderators and technology solutions to reduce sexual abuse and exploitation material surfacing on their site,” it said.

The center also targeted three of the Dirty Dozen for their links to prostitution. Onlyfans, it said, exploits vulnerable women and teens by urging them to post nude photos of themselves in hopes of a quick payday.

SeekingArrangement “targets college students and people suffering from the economic uncertainty of COVID-19 in order to groom them to be sexually used by wealthier, older men.” And the state of Nevada has long allowed legalized prostitution. In so doing, Nealon said, Nevada violates the 13th Amendment against involuntary servitude, making the state “just another pimp.”

Discord, a messaging app for teens with 100 million users, is “used by predators for trading pornography,” Nealon said. She added 31,000 of its 6.7 million servers contain “not safe for work” content, which is labeled as such.

Ebsco Information Services, the leading provider of online learning resources for schools and libraries, provides “graphic sexual content and live links to prostitution and pornography websites” for students as young as kindergarten age, even though it calls its materials “age and curriculum-appropriate,” the center said.

Verisign, which has exclusive management over the .com and .net domains, allows pornographic images on 70% of the websites under its umbrella, according to the center, and has refused to take meaningful action to get the porn pulled.