- That’s an emoji no one will be using anymore if this story is actually true
It’s common knowledge that words and symbols can have double meanings. It’s the basis of a massive number of jokes and puns, for example. Who doesn’t love a good double entendre?
But sometimes double meanings can take on a much more sinister nature. An online activist says that this is the case with the cheese and pizza emojis found on practically all devices.
The activist – a woman from London by the name of India who runs an anti-child abuse Instagram account PDProtect – claims that pedophiles are using the emojis and other references to cheese and pizza to find and share materials depicting child abuse.
As usual, you shouldn’t believe or make such wild claims made online without some serious proof. So don’t go accusing someone of being a child abuser just because they used a pizza emoji. They most likely are not.
Still, India told Metro newspaper that she has seen “thousands of accounts” on Instagram using the emojis for reprehensible purposes.
“They come up all the time. Often the word pizza will be within their username, their bio will be full of pizza emojis, or ‘I love cheese pizza’ but their picture will be of a child,” she said.
The logic behind the use of the emojis is pretty disgusting. The words ‘cheese pizza’ start with the letters CP… The same as ‘child porn’.
As to why India is doing her research, she said that she only wants to “spread awareness” of what’s happening.
“If you come across 150,000 accounts doing the same thing, you pick up on a pattern,” she said.
But is India engaging just in empty rumor-mongering or has her research had some tangible results? Apparently, it has.
India told Metro that she has reported more than 2,000 accounts to Instagram. Not all of them had anything to do with pizza or cheese, but “a fair number” did feature the references.
She added that every single one of the accounts was removed in about a week after reporting.
“They don’t necessarily share illicit things on their accounts, but they link elsewhere, or they post screenshots of filing systems and invite people to direct message them,” India said, explaining how the accounts work.
Still, without official confirmation, India’s could just be blowing hot air. But, according to the Telegraph, Instagram has confirmed that the company is working with her.
“We’ve been working with India to investigate and remove the accounts she’s identified and we’re grateful for her help,” said Vaishnavi J, Instagram’s Head of Safety.
“Any content that endangers children is abhorrent and we’re committed to doing everything we can to keep it off our apps.
“We remove accounts that share or solicit this type of content and report them to the police. We also use technology that’s constantly improving to find and remove known child exploitation imagery,” she said.
India said that sometimes after an account is removed, she will get contacted by its owner.
“These people are brazen,” she told Daily Mail. “They tell me ‘I don’t know why you’re trying to take me down, because I’ll just set up another one and go back’.”
Sounds like she’s got her work cut out for her.
It also appears that she’s might not be wrong in deducing that child abusers are using these kinds of coded phrases.
Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), told Metro that pedophiles are have been using double meanings and clandestine word combinations for a long time.
“These people have developed their own secret language over time to help them find and access criminal images of children being sexually abused without attracting the attention of their internet provider,” Hargreaves said.
In April, IWF announced that it had added 3,681 key words and phrases to their watch list. Before that, the list was 450 words long.
Many of these words, according to IWF are words used in regular everyday speech that you probably wouldn’t realize have any special meaning.
“In the current list there are words which straight away on its own mean child abuse terms,” said Bino Joseph, who develops tools for IWF that are used to expose criminal content.
“And there are other words which, on their own, don’t mean child abuse but, if you are using them in combination with any other words in the list, then they become a key word.”
India’s research means well and seems to have produced some results. However, with a hefty dose of irony, her claims have been linked to a separate but tangentially related controversy.
Namely, her focus on the pizza emojis is reminiscent of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory. While the theory has been completely debunked, it hasn’t stopped some people from jumping to their own conclusions.
The Pizzagate theory started circulating sometime during the highly contentious 2016 US Presidential election. In a nutshell, it claimed that references to “pizza” and the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington that were found in leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman Joe Podesta linked Clinton to a supposed Satanic child abuse ring operating out of the restaurant.
As said, no one has ever come up with any credible proof to support the theory. Still, in December 2016, 28-year-old Edgar Welch entered Comet Ping Pong to “self-investigate” the claims.
He ended up pulling out a gun and firing three shots in the restaurant. Luckily, no one got hurt and Welch has since gone to four years in prison.
James Alefantis, owner of Comet Ping Pong, has called the conspiracy theory “an insanely complicated, made-up, fictional lie-based story”.
India herself has also denied that her research or conclusions have anything to do with Pizzagate.
“It has nothing to do with Pizzagate, it’s purely what I’ve seen,” she summarized for Metro.