New York City

I-Team: Child Sex Doll Listings Found on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter

What to Know

  • The I-Team has uncovered videos and links for child sex dolls on the biggest social media sites
  • NY congressman Dan Donovan has introduced a bill to make them illegal in the U.S.
  • One social media expert says the platforms are enabling the sellers on their platforms and it's not something that should be on the internet

From YouTube to Instagram, and Twitter to Pinterest, videos and links to online markets for child sex dolls are being posted on the biggest social media sites, the I-Team has found. 

On one YouTube channel called Pretty Dolls, which has since been removed, videos about life-sized dolls that look like children and are sold for a dark purpose have been watched more than 100,000 times. 

"This should disgust every human being," said Rep. Dan Donovan (R-NY).

A prosecutor for 20 years, he's on a crusade to outlaw child sex dolls and has introduced a bill to make them illegal in the U.S., like they are in the United Kingdom and Australia. But even he was surprised by what the I-Team found. 

In addition to the social media listings, Google Shopping also offered child sex dolls -- and there were listings even on Amazon. 

"To see how widespread this is shows you how widespread of a problem it is," said Donovan. 

Donovan says he's locked up the type of people who buy them: "After [the doll] is no longer satisfying, you prey upon a child... that's the fear." 

Dr. Marie Helen Maras, a professor at John Jay College, is among the few people in the world who have researched the topic. 

"The risk is that eventually, the child sex doll will not be enough," she said. 

She rejects arguments the dolls can help pedophiles who are in therapy. 

"Cognitive behavioral therapy seeks to show these offenders that their behavior is wrong," she said. "How are you going to do that when you're promoting these dolls that are rewarding them?" 

But it raises the question of what roles social media companies play in the market. Sree Sreenivasan, a renowned social and digital media consultant who's a former technology professor at Columbia and chief digital officer for New York City, says, "This is something that should not be on the internet... You're not doing something bad yourself, but you're enabling it on your platform, and that is totally unacceptable." 

Social media companies said they agree. In response to I-Team inquiries, YouTube shut down the Pretty Dolls page, citing "multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy on nudity or sexual content."

"YouTube does not allow content involving the sexualization of minors and we deploy technology and people to fight this abhorrent content," said a spokesman for Google, which owns YouTube. "When we are made aware of behavior such as uploading, commenting, or engaging in any type of activity that sexualizes minors we immediately take action, including terminating accounts. Our systems are designed so that once a video that violates our policies is removed, it cannot be reuploaded."

Twitter also shut down what the I-Team found, saying it has "zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation." Instagram did, too, saying, "We have zero tolerance when it comes to content or behavior that puts the safety of our community at risk." And Pinterest said it's removed the flagged content and suspended the account. 

Amazon has moved aggressively to pull child sex dolls off its site that have been listed by third-party sellers, telling Donovan it has a "strong policy preventing the sale of offensive products." 

But the I-Team found others have surfaced. It's an example, Sreenivasan says, of why ongoing monitoring is critical.

"When you're dealing with this stuff, it can feel like whack-a-mole, and companies will tell you, 'We're going to do whatever is in the law or what the law requires us to do,'" he said. "But my question to any senior executive is, is it only what the law requires, or do you want to be a better company? Do you want to be a better organization?" 

In the U.S., there are currently no restrictions on importing, manufacturing, buying or possessing child sex dolls. Donovan's bill currently has 32 sponsors. 

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