The parents of a 13-year-old boy in Utah who was publicly groomed by an adult over Twitter and then kidnapped by the man in December told NBC in a bombshell report this week that they believe Elon Musk’s rocky takeover of the social media platform played a role in their son’s kidnapping.
In November, Heather and Ken McConney discovered their 13-year-old son was having extensive, concerning conversations with an adult man with the Twitter handle @HunterFloofyFox. Their son had met the man behind the account, identified as Tadashi Kojima, on Discord. Kojima insisted that the child join him on as many social platforms as possible in case they were discovered on others. The McConneys restricted their child’s access to the internet, but discovered he was using another phone in their house to exchange nude photos and sexual messages with the man, prompting them to contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which referred them to the Layton City Police Department.
On Dec. 2, police sought and obtained a search warrant to be served to Twitter. But police submitted the wrong username—@HunterFluffyFox—and didn’t submit a request for the correct user until Dec. 22.
In that period, the McConneys’ teen managed to resume contact with Kojima on Twitter via the family’s Meta VR headset without his parents’ knowledge. Kojima publicly shared sexual messages with the boy leading up to the eventual kidnapping at the end of December. On Dec. 13, Kojima tweeted, “Love you my sweet baby Lamb — daddy will do his best to be home before the holidays,” along with a shirtless photo of himself. The teen responded to his tweet, “shit, man I’m all packed and ready to go.” Similar public tweets were exchanged between the two over the next several days, including multiple tweets alluding to a “trip” the two would take together.
After police sought and received a warrant to obtain records from Twitter on Dec. 22, police told NBC the company didn’t respond until after the child was kidnapped. Even then, Sgt. Juan Moreno, who worked on the case, told NBC that Twitter “didn’t give us anything initially.”
Police issued an amber alert on the afternoon of Dec. 27, the day the teen was abducted. NBC noted that in replies to some of the tweets from @HunterFloofyFox, users tagged Musk. “@elonmusk this guy has taken a 13 year old boy, take his account down and retweet the amber alert,” one user tweeted shortly after the teen was kidnapped. Musk, who has a well-documented penchant for name-searching and replying to users who address him (often to exchange stolen memes) didn’t respond to any of the tweets.
The McConneys’ son was recovered on Dec. 28, 800 miles away in Nebraska, when someone reported a suspicious vehicle at a gas station, and a teen in the car was identified by police. Kojima was arrested and has been charged with four counts of sexual assault in Nebraska. He also faces federal kidnapping, coercion, and child pornography charges. Kojima pleaded not guilty in the state of Nebraska, and his trial there is scheduled for June.
Heather McConney emphasized her concerns about Twitter and the family’s plans to seek legal recourse. In particular, she questioned the role of Musk’s takeover at Twitter and the company’s rough transition period at around the same time as the kidnapping and the days leading up to it, possibly slowing down its ability to respond to police requests.
Musk took over the company last October; the following month, the company halved its workforce, including key positions in community and specifically child safety. Many other competent top staffers resigned. Musk has repeatedly claimed to take child sexual predation on the platform seriously—but he wiped out key teams and positions tasked with moderating child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM). According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Twitter’s response time to takedown requests for CSEM doubled in the month of December to 3.5 days. In November, Musk told Twitter users to reply to his tweet to flag any posts with CSEM—experts characterized this as tantamount to creating a readily accessible public thread of CSEM.
“We have been trying to reach out and find an attorney that can help us,” Heather said. “People need to understand what is happening on these platforms, and how to prevent it and I think something has got to be done.”
Musk has remained uncharacteristically quiet in the wake of NBC’s bombshell report, which comes at roughly the same time as other reports that Musk maintains a secret burner account where he roleplays as a horny child. And all of this is unfolding amid ongoing questions about safety and security on Twitter under the Musk regime. These questions extend to all users, as the website has effectively eliminated its user verification process, put two-factor verification behind a paywall, and hacked away at its privacy and security staff. But it seems the website has become especially unsafe for minors and children—and it was only a matter of time before this resulted in real-life consequences.