AlgorithmWatch reporter Nicolas Kayser-Bril joins forces with journalists Daham Alasaad and Suniya Qureshi to investigate weaknesses in “report this user” systems on social media, showing how groups of teenagers abuse the functionality to seize control of accounts and harass users.   

The journalists monitored criminal groups on Facebook and Instagram to see how notification systems are manipulated to make money. Through their investigation, they expose a criminal network that hasn’t been reported on before, along with details of the tools they use. 

The team spoke to victims in different countries to show the far-reaching consequences of the perpetrators’ activities. They also demonstrate just how easy it is to abuse notification systems.

The European Commission’s Digital Services Act proposes that technology platforms put in place systems to tackle the issue. However, experts say this would do little to improve matters since platforms deem as valid any reports self-certified as done in good faith.

Cover photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

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