Snapchat has a child pornography problem according to Bloomberg. You might say the U.S. has a child pornography problem, or maybe it’s just Michigan. Every week, we hear of several new arrests in the news. Arrests of men and women who were in some way engaging in child pornography, child sexual assault or both.
Nathan Eric Osborne of Muskegon has recently been in the news along with his two co-defendants for soliciting child pornography. More explicitly, for coercing two women to sexually assault young boys (in one case, an infant) and send him videos of the acts.
Jazmine Pacyga assaulted her own 5-month-old son. The news outlet doesn’t offer details about which app was used to transmit this illegal material. However, it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.
The only reason the three defendants got caught was that a screenshot was taken of the video and a third party was concerned enough to contact police. The implication is that the video would have disappeared without a trace once it was sent. Snapchat’s feature is enabling child predators all over the world.
A Haven for Child Predators
According to WBUR, Professor Adam Scott Wandt, assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said,
“Snapchat has become a haven for child predators to be able to both exchange child pornography with each other, and to be able to induce children to send pictures of them to the predator. And we’re also seeing difficulty in law enforcement being able to investigate due to the safeguards Snapchat has in deleting both snaps and ‘stories’ after certain amounts of time.”
Some “snaps” disappear within a few seconds in some cases. Kik Interactive, Inc. goes one step further: it offers users profiles that are as “anonymous as an old-school AOL chatroom.”
This app is becoming more popular with pedophiles because of the known profile of its user base: very young teenagers.
U.S. Cases Involving Child Pornography and Snapchat
The criminal cases in the U.S. in the last two years highlight this problem include the following.
- n 2016, a 13-year-old boy in Illinois was coerced into making a pornographic video of himself for who he thought was a 19-year-old woman. It turned out to be a 24-year-old man in California who prefers Snapchat and has used it to extort five other boys. Thankfully for his latest victim, the boy told his parents instead of giving in.
- Last April, law enforcement received a tip which led to an IP address in Guthrie, Oklahoma where a 36-year-old man had hundreds of images of child pornography on his devices.
- In New Hampshire, a 12-year-old girl sent explicit photos of herself and her 10-year-old sister to a 33-year-old man in Indiana.
- In Arizona, a 28-year-old mother used Snapchat to sell videos of herself molesting her 3-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
What is Snapchat Doing About Its Problem?
Snapchat told Bloomberg that it uses staffers and automated systems to protect all its users from unwanted messages. However, the company wouldn’t provide details. It almost sounds reminiscent of the Backpage story – where Backpage.com has been accused of aiding and guiding sex traffickers. Let’s hope it’s not.
Snapchat also says it has simplified its forms for reporting abuse and works closely with law enforcement to address child pornography abuses. The truth is that Facebook and Instagram are still the more widely used social media platforms for what’s being called “sextortion” of young teens and children. But Facebook has a much more pervasive and transparent cybersecurity program.
Snapchat is being flagged by law enforcement as a significant potential problem.
What Can You Do?
One way to protect your children from this potential danger is to keep tabs on all their social media accounts. Young elementary aged children are increasingly being drawn to Snapchat, for the very reason that their parents and older family members are on other social media platforms. Parents don’t always take into account that their kids have multiple social media accounts.
Child pornography and exploitation of young teens is more prevalent and easier than ever for online predators. Law enforcement is just beginning to find ways to investigate criminals who are using Snapchat. Unfortunately, it remains very difficult because of how the app works.
If you are facing charges related to child pornography online, contact a competent criminal defense attorney right away. This is a serious crime with severe potential repercussions. Call my office today.