Skip to content

Facts for parents about ‘Facebook child porn ring’

You may have heard a news story about a “Facebook child-abuse images ring” that has been reported mostly in Australia over the past eight months. It made headlines again today because the ringleader, a 45-year-old registered sex offender in the UK named Ian Green, confessed to 24 charges of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children” and “has been jailed for four years,” the BBC reports. These are images of children being sexually abused, so this is an abhorrent crime story, but parents don’t need to be swayed by any news story that might suggest (the BBC’s does not) that this international network of criminals represented any threat to young Facebook users. As child pornography networks have done with earlier Internet technologies such as newsgroups and peer-to-peer file-sharing, what this one did was hide their content in private groups on Facebook. As the BBC reports, no one could access that content without showing their “credentials”: usually child-abuse images of their own. So no one on Facebook who was not a member or potential member of this child-porn ring could’ve been exposed to that content, which became evidence in the criminal investigation. Facebook says it worked closely with law enforcement throughout the international investigation and “provided information that lead to the 11 arrests.” The BBC reports that the investigation “involved the FBI and police in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa.” [ConnectSafely.org, which I co-direct, is a member of Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board.]

Share
2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sue Williams #

    [Quote] Parents need not be concerned that their Facebook-using kids could’ve been exposed to the hidden content on the site that led to arrests of child-porn operators [unquote]
    Sorry but this is not true, many of us parents help expose this case and the CP pics, video’s and links were leaked out into a public open FB page “I hate Cigarrets” for all to see and Yes children did see this, several children were chased out of the page by watchful parents (but that did not mean they were not watching on the side, the kids just stopped commenting), one such young girl from Adelaide was alerted to the page in question when her own profile pic was used by the person distributing the offencive material, the profile name used was “Leroy Millet”, he had also stolen a profile pic of a two year old girl that the mother had used as her own profile pic and described how he could photo shop the pic!! so please if you have to tell a story do get the TRUE FACTS!!!!

    September 6, 2010
    • Anne #

      Thanks for your comment, Sue. I think it may be possible that you’re confusing the case I blogged about with another situation. I contacted Facebook after reading your comment, to check my post’s accuracy, and they confirmed they weren’t aware of any minors accessing that particular content. They also said that they “respond aggressively to any reports of pornography on the site,” especially illegal child pornography and “consistently report” the latter to make sure it gets to the attention of law enforcement. I truly believe Facebook acted in good faith and cooperates fully with law enforcement – that it’s not in their business interest or that of any high-profile company not to (I agree with what social media researcher danah boyd writes here about another high-traffic social-media service under similar scrutiny). I also believe, though, that it’s impossible for social-media companies to monitor, much less control, the content that tens, and in Facebook’s case, hundreds of millions of users are updating in realtime. This in no way helps to ease the impact on children of the egregious exposure you’re referring to, but I think we need together – parents, educators, the industry, policymakers, social workers, all of us – to understand this new reality so that we can work out effective ways to protect youth. Putting the onus entirely on companies that don’t actually produce their “products” in this very different new media environment just won’t work. Child protection is now fundamentally a collective effort. I hope this makes some sense.

      September 10, 2010

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS