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Despite bans, Giphy still hosts self-harm, hate speech, and child sex abuse content

Image search engine Giphy bills itself as providing a “fun and safe way” to search and create animated GIFs. But despite its ban on illicit content, the site is littered with self-harm and child sex abuse imagery, TechCrunch has learned.
A new report from Israeli online child protection startup L1ght — previously AntiToxin Technologies — has uncovered a host of toxic content hiding within the popular GIF-sharing community, including illegal child abuse content, depictions of rape, and other toxic imagery associated with topics like white supremacy and hate speech. The report, shared exclusively with TechCrunch, also showed content encouraging viewers into unhealthy weight loss and glamorizing eating disorders.
TechCrunch verified some of the company’s findings by searching the site using certain keywords. (We did not search for terms that may have returned child sex abuse content as doing so would be illegal.) Although Giphy blocks many hashtags and search terms from returning results, search engines like Google and Bing still cache images with certain keywords.
When we tested using several words associated with illicit content, Giphy sometimes showed content from its own results. When it didn’t return any banned materials, search engines often returned a stream of would-be banned results.
L1ght develops advanced solutions to combat online toxicity. Through its tests, one search of illicit material returned 195 pictures on the first search page alone. L1ght’s team then followed tags from one item to the next, uncovering networks of illegal or toxic content along the way. The tags themselves were often innocuous in order help users escape detection, but they served as a gateway to the toxic material.
Despite bans, Giphy still hosts self-harm, hate speech, and child sex abuse content
Despite a ban on self-harm content, researchers found numerous keywords and search terms to find the banned content. We have blurred this graphic image. (Image: TechCrunch)
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