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Online Vigilantes, AI Google Searches, and Instagram Ads Featuring Kids Reaching Sex Offenders

Words by
Jackie Baucom

MAY 16, 2024

Online Vigilantes, AI Google Searches, and Instagram Ads Featuring Kids Reaching Sex Offenders

Let’s dive into this week’s kid-safe tech stories!

Meta Rescinds Job Offer to Sextortion Expert

Meta made negative kid-safety headlines again this week, this time for rescinding a job offer to Paul Raffile — a cyber-intelligence analyst focused on human exploitation — after Raiffile’s criticism of Instagram’s child protection failures during a webinar. 

Despite Meta denying a connection between his comments and the offer withdrawal, Raffile strongly suspects otherwise and the incident leaves him skeptical of Meta’s commitment to tackle the issue.

Meta revokes job offer to sextortion expert after he publicly criticizes Instagram | The Guardian

Google Search is Feeling Lucky

Google unveiled a new AI-driven vision for its search engine, aiming to simplify searches by providing “AI overviews” that compile relevant information for a more streamlined search.

While AI will assist users in finding information, it won’t provide definitive answers.

New features include LearnLM models that simplify concepts and guide users to reliable sources, emphasizing AI as a learning companion. 

The Horseshoe Theory of Google Search | The Atlantic

Weird Images and Manipulative Posts Flood Meta

Facebook users are increasingly encountering AI-generated spam in their feeds, featuring odd images and emotionally manipulative content.

Georgetown and Stanford researchers found that Facebook’s algorithm boosts some of these posts, leading to concerns about scams and misinformation.

Meta says they plan to label AI-generated content soon.

AI-generated spam is starting to fill social media. Here’s why | NPR

Google’s New Location-Sharing Feature

Google will soon notify Android device owners about a new feature that automatically shares their device’s location with nearby compatible gadgets to facilitate locating lost items. 

This type of technology can help in finding misplaced belongings, but it can leave individuals vulnerable to stalking.

Users can opt out of the feature at any time.

Google’s new ‘Find My’ device network is useful but a stalking risk | The Washington Post

Online Vigilantes Can Cause More Troubles

A recent social media trend where streamers pose as underage kids to bait child predators, is causing concern among law enforcement agencies.

Corporal Justin Dunn, Missouri State Highway Patrol, warns that vigilantes not following legal guidelines could undermine investigations and endanger everyone involved. 

Dunn emphasizes the importance of reporting suspicions of child predators to local law enforcement rather than taking matters into one’s own hands.

Police warn that social media trend of posing as kids to trap predators could backfire | KTVO

Instagram Ads Featuring Kids Unwittingly Target Sex Offenders

A children’s jewelry maker’s Instagram ads targeting women interested in parenting and ballet, reached mostly adult men instead, including sex offenders.

The New York Times replicated this outcome with test ads, highlighting algorithmic flaws and raising concerns about men’s sexualized interactions with children’s photos.

Meta has defended its systems but acknowledges ongoing challenges in ad targeting and content moderation.

On Instagram, a Jewelry Ad Draws Solicitations for Sex With a 5-Year-Old | The New York Times

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