How pedophiles are using Instagram as a secret portal to an apparent network of child porn

Instagram is struggling to stay on top of a secret network of child pornography as its 15,000 moderators shared with Facebook try to police the dark side of the social media network which hit 1 billion monthly users last July.

A ring of pedophiles sharing sickening images are using the app and desktop-based service to lead people to less-obviously advertised links to endless content on Dropbox.

The file hosting service is unknowingly allowing pedophiles to circulate indecent images of underage children, which according to a report by The Atlantic, ended up being discovered by youngsters.

It only emerged when teenagers running meme accounts stumbled across the hashtag #dropboxlinks.

Some young Instagram users have tried to combat the ring by posting memes to alert other disgusted Instagram account holders, in turn prompting them to report the misuses of to moderators.

But even if one hashtag or account it reported, another pops up.

Variations featuring the Dropbox name have emerged, each asking pedophiles to direct message them for links that host the offending content.

One account’s bio reads: ‘I’ll trade boys for girls only you send first’. Another advertises ‘kid videos’ and shares urls in an image post.

Text image posts from some of the accounts have resulted in users commenting to trade indecent photographs and videos or sending direct messages privately.

According to The Atlantic, when some users tried to report the problems to Instagram, the platform responded that their terms had not been violated.

While the network has axed hashtag pages for the likes of ‘#dropboxlinks’ and ‘tradedropbox’, even an algorithm to detect these exploitative images can’t stay on top of the sheer amount being covertly promoted.

An Instagram spokesperson told The Atlantic: ‘Keeping children and young people safe on Instagram is hugely important to us.

‘We do not allow content that endangers children, and we have blocked the hashtags in question.’

It came after its owners, Facebook, who also own messaging service Whatsapp, were the subject of a December report by TechCrunch on how moderators failed to stay on top of rings with names obviously alluding to child porn.

They were being advertised on group chat discovery apps available in the Google Play store and could have been regulated from there without compromising the tight encryption service it offers others.

Dropbox told DailyMail.com it was working with the social network to tackle the problem.

‘Child exploitation is a horrific crime and we condemn in the strongest possible terms anyone who abuses our platform to share it,’ a spokesperson said. ‘We work with Instagram and other sites to ensure this type of content is taken down as soon as possible.’