Children's photos on social media - the underestimated danger
Sharing children's photos on social media is a matter of course for many parents. They proudly present their children's happy moments, whether it's their first day at school, their birthday or simply a funny snapshot in the garden. But behind the supposedly harmless gesture lurks a dark danger: the abuse of children's photos on sites with illegal content, especially child pornography.
ARD investigation reveals shocking facts
In recent years, the spread of child pornography on the Internet has become alarming. Not only stolen or secretly captured images are used, but also seemingly harmless children’s photos that are innocently shared by parents on social media. These are collected by criminal organizations, processed and misused for their disgusting purposes. This was the result of extensive research by reporter teams from the ARD political magazine "Panorama" and the reporting format STRG_F.
According to the reports, the perpetrators go on regular raids on social networks such as Facebook and Instagram. Images of children are systematically stolen from private social media accounts, which then appear on illegal photo platforms for paedosexuals. The images are often accompanied by obscene comments. Occasionally, the private social media profiles are even linked.
Images in child pornography forums
The research teams from "Panorama" and "STRG_F" found what they were looking for in various child pornography forums on the Darknet. They found photos of children stolen from Facebook and Instagram in a category labeled "Non Nude". Tracing them back to private social media accounts was possible because the platforms store an unambiguous reference to the origin, a so-called tracking code, in the metadata of each image file. This marking is also not removed if an image is uploaded again in a different location in unchanged form.
Devastating consequences for children and their families
Most parents are unaware of the danger posed by their social media activities. Profiles of children are often created without adequate safety precautions. Public profiles allow strangers to access the images and use them without parental consent. The consequences for the families affected are devastating. Not only that the privacy of the children is violated, but also the psychological effects can be serious. Children who learn that their photos have been abused for illegal purposes often suffer serious trauma. In addition, the legal prosecution of the perpetrators is often difficult, as many of these criminal organizations cleverly conceal their traces.
Protection against abuse has top priority
To protect children from abuse, it is important that parents become aware of the risks and take appropriate measures. This includes checking social media privacy settings and avoiding sharing photos publicly. Instead, access to images should be limited to a close circle of friends and family.
Many people don't even know that GPS coordinates can be hidden in mobile phone photos, allowing conclusions to be drawn about where they were taken. For this reason, it is advisable to deactivate the GPS function, at least on children's photos, to make it more difficult to track their whereabouts. In addition, parents should educate their children about the dangers of the Internet and sensitize them to responsible use of social media.
Despite all precautionary measures: The best protection for children is always to avoid posting snapshots of your offspring on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram in the first place.