A handful of Twitter accounts across the UK have been suspended after it was discovered that they contain graphic images of child abuse, several British news organizations including the BBC and the Guardian report.
The London-based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the shocking images were revealed when hacking groups broke into private Twitter accounts. The NSPCC then received a “flurry” of reports about graphic content contained in at least six accounts -- accounts that have now been disabled.
The offending Twitter accounts will now be investigated in the U.S., since the popular micro-blogging social network is based in San Francisco.
"We understand the authorities in the U.S. are now looking at the accounts," an NSPCC spokesman told the Guardian. "Apparently these were pretty disturbing images of child abuse.”
"To be honest, it's not a massive surprise. In our experience sex offenders will use whichever means they can to connect with each other. They are usually quite devious," a spokesman added to the BBC.
Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre told reporters it had received as many as 25 to 30 reports about at least four accounts. The organization added that Twitter had disabled the accounts itself, and the social media company would now be reporting the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the U.S. Despite the information first being discovered in the U.K., Twitter is legally obligated to process its information with the NCMEC as a U.S.-based company.
"Twitter are obliged by law to send details of any accounts containing indecent images of children to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the U.S.,” a CEOP spokesman told the Guardian. "NCMEC will then forward information for investigation to law enforcement agencies in the relevant country where the user is believed to be based, or children believed to be at risk."
The exact origin of these images, along with the nationalities of any children involved in their production, remains unknown.
Twitter, for its part, has not yet commented on the matter, and the company was not immediately available for comment on this story. The Guardian reports, however, that Twitter has been issuing a standard response to anyone contacting the company about the offending images.
"We do not tolerate child pornography on Twitter,” the statement read. “When we are made aware of such images they will be removed from the site without further notice.”