It’s a sad statement on our modern world when you can say “pedo sites” and everyone instantly gets it: “Oh of course, he’s talking about sites where pedophiles go to get together and talk about pedophile stuff, share pictures, that kind of thing. Sure, pedo sites -- it would be surprising if they didn’t exist.”
What may be slightly more surprising is the fact that up to half of the images of children shared on these sites originally came from social media, according to a new report from the Australian government’s Children eSafety Commissioner. While they obviously weren’t sexual in nature to begin with, the pictures shared on pedo sites (or “paedo” sites in Aussie) can be sexualized with the addition of captions, comments or photo editing. Even without any of these changes the whole concept is obviously extra creepy.
Commissioner Alastair MacGibbon told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Many users clearly identify that they have obtained the content through trawling social media accounts. The images are almost always accompanied by highly explicit and very disturbing user comments. Often, users exchange email addresses with invitations to connect outside the site to trade content.”
Predictably, most of the images were uploaded innocently enough by parents or family friends, without the faintest inkling they would become fodder for such grossness; the numbers of stolen photos uncovered run into the tens of millions, with most coming from sites and apps including Facebook, Kik, and Instagram. One site containing 45 million stolen photos include folders with titles like “My daughter's Instagram friends.” Yup, I just threw up in my mouth a little.
While parents can hardly be faulted for a total stranger’s criminal tendencies and mental health issues, commissioner MacGibbon said that parents should always think twice about posting photos of their kids to social media, and remember to set privacy settings so these photos aren’t publicly available.
MacGibbon noted one example from 2013 in which 100 images were stolen from a family blog open to the public: “Families – very innocently – maintain blogs where they catalogue every aspect of their children's lives, with no security against these obsessive efforts to obtain content. Within 10 days of being uploaded, the content had been viewed 1.7 million times and comments had been posted that explicitly sexualised the material.”