The Dominion Post

Innocent snaps found on child porn sites


INNOCENT photos of children originally posted on social media and family blogs account for up to half the material found on some paedophile image-sharing sites, according to Australia’s new Children’s eSafety Commission­er.

Mostly the images are posted by parents unaware of how easily they can be downloaded and stored by friends or strangers.

Tens of millions of photos of children doing everyday activities and posted on popular sites such as Facebook, Kik, and Instagram have been found by investigat­ors looking into complaints about child abuse material online.

A senior investigat­or at the eSafety Commission, Toby Dagg, said that on one site with at least 45 million images, ‘‘about half the material appeared to be sourced directly from social media’’ and clearly labelled in folders as images from Facebook, or other social sites like Kik, with one folder called ‘‘Kik girls’’.

Another was labelled ‘‘My daughter’s Instagram friends’’.

While photos copied from social media would not be considered exploitati­on material on their own, they were often accompanie­d by comments that explicitly sexualise the children. However, this was just a fraction of all the material investigat­ed every year, Dagg added.

And while the site was not hosted in Australia, it was ‘‘entirely possible’’ that images of Australian children were on the site.

The Children’s eSafety Commission­er, Alastair MacGibbon, said investigat­ors had found sites containing child exploitati­on material where innocent images were in folders named thematical­ly, such as ‘‘kids at beach’’, ‘‘nice boys play in river’’, ‘‘gymnasts’’.

‘‘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,’’ he said.

A 2013 investigat­ion uncovered one site with about 100 images, including photos of children on holiday, doing homework, and opening Christmas presents.

‘‘Families – very innocently – maintain blogs where they catalogue every aspect of their children’s lives, with no security against these obsessive efforts to obtain content,’’ MacGibbon said.

‘‘Within 10 days of being uploaded, the content had been viewed 1.7 million times and comments had been posted that explicitly sexualised the material.’’

Cyber-safety expert Susan McLean said parents were often less educated about online safety than their children.

‘‘When you post anything online, does not matter where it is, you have lost control of it.

‘‘Over-sharing parents are a concern because they have no idea about where these [images] go and many parents do not lock their accounts down in the same way kids do.’’

‘The images are almost always accompanie­d by highly explicit and very disturbing user comments. Children’s eSafety Commission­er Alastair MacGibbon

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