Editor's note: This is the first of a four-part series examining the dark side of Facebook. Read Part 2 here. Read Part 3 here. And Part 4 here. Media wishing to interview WND's Chelsea Schilling about this series, please contact us here.
(EXPLICIT CONTENT: This report contains graphic details of sexual abuse of children as it has appeared in numerous locations on Facebook. WND immediately reported images of child pornography and child sexual abuse to the FBI. Censored screenshots published are among the mildest of those found.)
She's a tiny brunette with brown eyes, barely 10, and she's naked – posing for the man who raped her and traded her photo like currency with thousands of insatiable predators on Facebook.
The girl doesn't smile, because she knows what comes next. Her abuser will share photos and earn bragging rights from thousands of others just like him who will exchange their own titillating snapshots – often images uploaded from cell phones – of boys and girls they molest.
She's beautiful. In fact, she could be your own daughter, or little sister. Her little curls dangle over her youthful skin. Her bare body is clearly underdeveloped. But she has become a tool for sex, an X-rated trading card, a means to arouse the world's sexual deviants.
There are many more young girls and boys like her – not in some sleazy magazine from the back of an adult bookshop, not from some homemade videos in the red light district, not in the back alleys of Bangladesh, but on the pages of one of the most successful new Internet companies in the world.
Meet the dark underbelly of Facebook, an ubiquitous U.S.-based company making an initial public offering expected to value the company as high as $100 billion.
Another profile reveals a small boy, about 8, who looks much like a neighborhood Little League champion or Cub Scout. He's been forced to undress on a bed and hold his ankles behind his head as his captor photographs his exposed genitals and anus.
One more boy, about 12, is lying face down on a bed as an adult male penetrates him. The photo is a mobile upload – likely taken by a third person in the room who observed the child's rape and posted the image to Facebook with a cell phone.
On other pages, child-porn deviants share a photo of two naked girls who are kissing and fondling one another outdoors. Yet another boy, who appears to be about 4, is receiving oral sex from a child roughly two years his senior.
Other children just like them are shown sodomizing one another – or being raped by adult men or women – in photos and video links of the abuse posted on Facebook. Entire albums of exploited boys and girls are visible to the public and shared with the click of a mouse.
On the Facebook user page called "Kidsex Young," one man asks others, "Care to trade vids?" Another posts a video of a naked man fondling a baby on a bed.
Profile of a Facebook predator
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.
During the investigation, entire Facebook predator communities were easily spotted. Child pornographers use groups as meet-up points to find others with similar interests. Many of the offenders would list similar interests on their profile pages, including terms such as "Thirteen," "Lolita," "Justin Bieber," "incest" and "PTHC (preteen hard-core pornography)." Their activities might include "Receiving nude pics," and they subscribe to explicit Facebook fan pages posted in plain sight.
In most cases, child-pornography traders and pedophiles have two kinds of friends: 1) sexual deviants who have similar interests and 2) unsuspecting children they've found and "friended" on Facebook. Many predators will establish a virtual relationship with a child, convince him or her to send provocative photos and even persuade the child to meet with them in person.
The following are actual groups and "likes" currently and/or previously available to site users around the world:
10-17 Teen Bisexual
Incest (2,119 "likes" on April 19, 2012)
PTHC (preteen hard-core pornography)
12 to 13 Boy Sex
Hot and Teen Lesbians
Bl-wjob Fan Page (1,662 likes on April 20, 2012, mostly girls, some young-looking teens)
Love Little Kids
Sex Little Girls
F--k Young Girls
F--k Young Boys
As the name suggests, "PedoBear" is a cartoon of a pedophiliac bear that many pedophiles are using to identify each other on Facebook. At the time of this report, there were 267,064 Facebook "likes" for dozens of pages filled with fan groups containing the term "PedoBear." In some of those groups, WND found very disturbing imagery.
There appears to be little policing of these groups by the social network.
Despite repeated requests, Facebook did not respond to phone calls and emails from WND about the numerous images, videos or explicit "like" groups favored by sexual deviants.
Michelle Collins is vice president for the exploited children division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC. She told WND that NCMEC receives reports from all of the social networking companies.
And there are online advisories to parents whose children go missing.
"The law requires them, if they become aware of it, to report it," Collins said. "With the global nature of this – and companies the size of Google and Facebook and others – they have individuals using their systems from every part of the globe. So, in many cases, we have received reports from the companies that actually indicate child pornography images were uploaded from [locations around the world]. … The average last year was about three days for the content to be removed."
Asked whether Facebook's explicit "likes" and interest groups might aggravate the problem by allowing thousands of child predators to interact and trade photos, Collins acknowledged, "Yes, there are key words that indicate that individuals with like-minded interests in children would be flocking to. … I think that's a really good question."
Behind the images
Most of these predators aren't simply looking at child pornography images. In a 2007 Federal Bureau of Prisons study in which psychologists conducted an in-depth survey of online offenders' sexual behavior, 85 percent of convicted Internet offenders said they had committed acts of sexual abuse against minors, from inappropriate touching to rape.
The U.S. Department of Justice explains: "In most child pornography cases, the abuse is not a one-time event, but rather ongoing victimization that progresses over months or years. It is common for producers of child pornography to groom victims, or cultivate a relationship with a child and gradually sexualize the contact over time. The grooming process fosters a false sense of trust and authority over a child in order to desensitize or break down a child's resistance to sexual abuse."
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.
"It's not just about images," Lepoutre said. "In almost all cases, these images are associated with sexually abused children. We know that's what's going on. I would be careful not to characterize this as bad people taking pictures of semi-naked or naked little girls. It's much more than that, because in almost all instances that picture-taking is very often the actual video or the actual photography of the rape of children."
Lepoutre's co-combatant in this battle against child pornography is Raymond Bechard, author of "The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America," a historical examination of commercial sexual exploitation and its place within all American communities. Bechard also wrote "Unspeakable: The Truth Behind the World's Fastest Growing Crime," an expose of child trafficking around the globe. He launched Men Against Prostitution And Trafficking, the first anti-human trafficking political action committee in the U.S., and is co-founder of Stop Child Porn on Facebook.
In "The Berlin Turnpike," Bechard explains: "Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have completely changed the game. Enormously popular – and growing every day – these free sites offer very powerful tools for men who are buying sex, pimps who are selling it, and pedophiles trading child pornography. In a brilliantly devious marketing ploy, pimps have used these sites in such a way that men no longer need to look for girls on the street corner or the Internet. Using social networking, the girls will come to them. …
"Far more blatant was the use of Facebook by pedophiles to connect with each other around the world in order to trade sexually explicit photos of young children – another form of human trafficking under U.S. law."
Bechard notes that one Facebook profile in early 2011, under the fictitious name "Marcos Teia," had more than 500 "friends" who exchanged photos. One of the first images in his gallery depicted a young girl just 6 or 7 years old.
"She was not smiling in the picture. With her head turned slightly to the right, she looked coyly at the lens. Her hair was coiffed in a highly stylized arrangement with green and yellow ribbons. Along with her makeup she was wearing lipstick, eyeliner and shadow. She was standing outside, a blue sky and unidentified foothills behind her. She was holding an inflatable Daffy Duck. She was completely naked."
The collection was growing by the hour. After the "Marcos Teia" profile was reported, it temporarily disappeared and resurfaced quickly.
"One day he was on Facebook with hundreds of friends – whose profiles also exhibited sexually explicit photographs of children and adults on the social networking site – and the next day he was gone. A few days later he was back, eager to confirm friend requests from anyone."
Bechard also stumbled upon the profile "Marcos Robson."
"These photographs were explicit images of girls, appearing to range in ages between 3 and 9 years," he explained. "The images showed these girls involved in vaginal, oral and anal sex acts. Some are bound with duct tape. According to the group's Facebook wall, 'sex little girls' had 51 members and the number of photos posted had grown to 37, including one with what appeared to be a female newborn and the genitals of an adult male."
Advertising child-porn sites
Bechard told WND child-pornography traders are profiting from posting links to their outside video galleries on Facebook.
"Many of these guys have hidden galleries and links to videos they have or have taken," he said. "That's the real money for them, in the videos."
During the WND investigation, it was a common occurrence to find links to outside child-pornography websites with photos and video captions. The following are a few of those captions:
"Arabian boy f--k his neighbor 13 yo"
"Mom seduces son in bedroom"
"Arabian teacher rapes his student"
"Boys f--k each other"
"Arabian boy f--k his younger brother in the a--"
"Circumcision of boys"
The administrator for the group "Planet-of-Boys" posted a visitor advisory on his Facebook page:
"Enter Our Blog and Chat live wz people who love boyz share emails and links safely – you can got deleted if you do that on facebook but on our blog you will not got deleted and you can have fun all the time [sic]."
'They had no idea this exists'
Bechard said one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome is public unawareness of child pornography on Facebook.
"One problem is the fact that very few people even know this problem exists," he said. "Nobody knows about it."
Bechard and Lepoutre informed congressional staffers, who work in the area of child abuse and commercial sex exploitation, of the child pornography on Facebook.
"They had no idea this exists, because they all, by their own admission, love Facebook," Bechard said. "It's helping them get elected or prevented others from getting elected. Everybody uses the thing."
The following is a local news report about the startling trend:
Concerned individuals may do the following:
If you have stumbled upon content appearing to be child pornography, report it immediately to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
(Part 2 of this series will examine the response of Facebook and law-enforcement officials in the ongoing battle against child porn on Facebook.)