Twitter's BBC hashtag shows visitors hardcore porn images

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Twitter's image preview displays pornographic photos to users searching for BBC

Users searching for the BBC on Twitter are being exposed to hardcore pornographic images, PC Pro has discovered.

The problem has been caused by Twitter's recently introduced photo preview feature, which automatically displays images linked to within tweets, including searches for particular hashtags. If images haven't been marked as explicit they can appear in any user's search results.

Following a tip-off from a reader who was shocked to find adult material in his timeline, PC Pro investigated and discovered that seemingly innocent search terms can deliver hardcore pornography. For example, #bbc refers to both the British Broadcasting Corporation and an abbreviation commonly used by pornography sites.

Such a search throws up graphic images with no warning of adult content, alongside trailers for Radio 1 shows and BBC nature programmes.

We contacted Twitter to ask if preview images were vetted, but the company referred us to its terms and conditions instead of responding to specific questions.

Those guidelines state merely that users are forbidden from using nude or pornographic images for profile pictures and backgrounds. Other content is "not mediated": Twitter advises users that they should flag sensitive content, but the process is voluntary, so many images arrive on the site without proper warning.

"If you upload media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting 'Mark my media as containing sensitive content' by following the instructions," Twitter says.

If images are not marked by the poster, they can be flagged as inappropriate by other users, but they are not immediately removed from the site.

As a test, we flagged two explicit images tagged with the #bbc hashtag yesterday evening. This morning they were gone from the search results - but had been replaced in those "top tweets" by an equally explicit image dating back to 9 January.

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