Fresh indications have emerged that some pedophilia websites are in the habit of stealing pictures of children from the ones posted over the internet by unsuspecting parents and relatives.
According to Australia’s new Children’s eSafety Commissioner, Alastair MacGibbon, a team of investigators looking into complaints of child abuse material had discovered tens of millions of photos of children doing everyday activities such as swimming, sports or homework.
MacGibbon revealed that while the images themselves were not exploitative, comments attached to them by strangers sexualised them, according to reports.
The commissioner added that parents who never thought that the photos could be downloaded by strangers were often cataloguing every aspect of their children’s lives, “with no security against these obsessive efforts to obtain content”.
He observed that most of the photos being posted to popular social media site often garnered as much as 1.7million viewers within 10 days of being uploaded.
Images were often catalogued in ‘themes’ such as “kids at beach”, “nice boys play in river” or “gymnasts”, alongside comments that explicitly sexualised the material.
“Many users clearly identify that they have obtained the content through trawling social media accounts. The images are almost always accompanied by highly explicit and very disturbing user comments. Often, users exchange email addresses with invitations to connect outside the site to trade content.”
Additionally, a senior investigator at the eSafety Commission, Toby Dagg, revealed that about half the material on one paedophile site which contained at least 45 million images of children appeared to be “sourced directly from social media” and then filed in folders entitled “Kik girls” or “my daughter’s Instagram friends”.
Dagg stated that the staggeringly high numbers of images found represented just a fraction of all the material investigated every year, and warned that while the site was not hosted in Australia, it was “entirely possible” that images of Australian children were on the site.
Cyber-safety expert, Susan McLean, opined that Facebook contained the best safety and security settings for restricted content, adding that “over-sharing parents” were of particular concern.
“When you post anything online, does not matter where it is, you have lost control of it,” she said. “Many parents do not lock their accounts down in the same way kids do. It does not matter how innocent the photo is, if your child has got what a predator is looking for, they will take that photo,”McLean stated.