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, who are 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.
Senior investigator at the eSafety Commissioner, 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, Mr Dagg added.
And while the site was not hosted in Australia, it was “entirely possible” that images of Australian children were on the site, which he declined to name.