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Facebook’s response to child pornography reports

As part of an undercover news investigation, WND used alias Facebook profiles and located dozens of child-porn images after “friending” many likely pedophiles and predators who trade thousands of pornographic photos on the social network. WND immediately reported graphic images of children and sex abuse to the FBI.

Other photos and videos of young children wearing G-strings and posing provocatively were reported to Facebook first to test the social network’s response.

Early in the investigation, Facebook was slow to remove photos or profiles – and, in some cases, didn’t appear to act at all. After three weeks of observation, some newly reported profiles were removed within 48 hours. However, most explicit videos and interest groups remain on the social network today, and new pedophile profiles are astonishingly simple to locate.

Despite repeated requests over the course of almost two months, Facebook did not respond to phone calls and emails from WND about the numerous images and videos shared by its users of children being sexually abused or posing nude. However, after Part 1 of this series was published, the social network provided a brief, emailed statement that WND posted here.

(Several news outlets reported a similar Facebook response just months ago following a deluge of complaints about its many pages promoting and joking about rape.)

Raymond Bechard, author of “The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America,” launched Men Against Prostitution And Trafficking, the first anti-human trafficking political action committee in the U.S. He has used alias Facebook profiles to find child predators and turn them over to federal authorities.

“If you report the images to Facebook, its system is woefully inadequate and extremely unresponsive to reporting a crime of this nature,” Bechard told WND. “You report it to Facebook, and you really don’t know if anything has happened. There’s no response – ever – and then you have to go back and see if it’s ever been removed. If a photo/video link does disappear, and they do take it down, you have no way of telling whether the crime you have witnessed has been reported to law enforcement.”

In one case, nearly 80 photos of a young girl, about 8 years old, revealed a child posing in hot-pink thong underwear and climbing a tree. The girl spread her legs as the photographer took pictures of her buttocks and crotch area while standing only one or two feet from the young subject.

When WND reported the photos to the social network by phone and its online application on March 20, Facebook neither returned calls nor removed the images. The photos were still there on April 3 – when WND notified the FBI.

Within 24 hours of filing a report with the FBI, the entire user profile was removed.

Facebook notice informs user that reported photos may not be removed from the site.

FBI officials responding to reports of child porn on Facebook were courteous and helpful. However, WND asked FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer whether Facebook reports child pornography to authorities and readily cooperates with investigations.

“We don’t talk about our working relationships with private industry, so I can’t offer a comment,” Shearer told WND, refusing to discuss law-enforcement dealings with Facebook or Twitter in cases of child pornography.

Asked whether social media is becoming a magnet for child porn, Shearer replied, “It seems that people use social networking sites for all sorts of interests, including those that may involve, unfortunately, predation of children.”

In its “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,” Facebook tells users: “You will not post content that: is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

In a twist of irony, the social network blocked WND’s alias accounts due to “security reasons” immediately after dozens of images and videos of child sexual abuse were reported by those accounts. In many cases, the reported content had been posted for months and had been viewed and shared by dozens or even hundreds of pedophiles.

"10-17 teen bisexual" community group

Removing photos: ‘It’s like chasing cockroaches’

Richard Lepoutre has been actively involved in the fight to protect children from sexual abuse for more than 25 years and is the co-founder of the fight against pedophiles on Facebook with the Stop Child Porn on Facebook campaign. He also wages the battle against commercial sexual exploitation through his work at the Stop Online Exploitation Campaign and Men Against Prostitution and Trafficking.

“The futility of this is that, as you are reporting that individual image and trying so hard to get it taken down, it is, of course, being replicated hundreds and perhaps thousands of times in all sorts of other locations,” he explained. “It doesn’t really go away. As long as it’s up there, there are other exchange partners and other profiles that are grabbing this image. While you can ask for it to be taken down in one place under one profile, it’s very likely that it continues to propagate digitally. The real issue here is preventing the photo from getting up there in the first place.”

Lepoutre said “this community of perverts and criminals” has its own “viral” phenomenon.

“You can be sure a prized photo that shows up at some point is distributed and shared probably thousands of times within hours,” he said. “It’s like chasing cockroaches. You think you’re getting them, but the image is like a proverbial cockroach that just clones and clones and clones. It’s hiding and it’s all over the place. You turn on the light and they scatter. But just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there.”

The U.S. Department of Justice notes: “[V]ictims of child pornography suffer not just from the sexual abuse inflicted upon them to produce child pornography, but also from knowing that their images can be traded and viewed by others worldwide. Once an image is on the Internet, it is irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The permanent record of a child’s sexual abuse can alter his or her live forever. Many victims of child pornography suffer from feelings of helplessness, fear, humiliation, and lack of control given that their images are available for others to view in perpetuity.”

During the course of their work, Bechard and Lepoutre have reported numerous images and profiles to Facebook. While accounts and links to child-pornographic material may be deactivated by the website, many pedophiles reappear within weeks or even days, they said. In such cases, the repeat offenders repost their massive albums of abuse.

“Why aren’t they preventing it from being posted in the first place?” Bechard asked. “And what are they doing to investigate where it came from? Is there any data mining they can do to find out if they’re coming from one place in particular? Why not aim resources at this to truly investigate it the way this level of crime deserves to be investigated?”

Lepoutre listed names of some of the largest adult video pornography websites in the world. The material for the websites is submitted and uploaded by individuals, much like the process for posting videos on YouTube or Facebook.

“You can go to any of the huge porn sites and you will not find child pornography on those websites,” he said. “It stands to reason that they have the means and technology and apparently the motivation not to allow child pornography to be uploaded. Therefore, technically speaking, and from a resource perspective, why can’t Facebook do just as well as the major porn sites?”

(Story continues. Read Page 3)

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