Police departments and local news stations across the nation are reporting that a child pornography video depicting a young girl and adult man began spreading to thousands of Facebook messenger inboxes late last week, BuzzFeed reports. The disturbing pornography’s wide circulation on the platform was propelled by a message accompanying the video entreating people to forward it to others as part of a campaign to find the perpetrator and his victim.
The man who allegedly appeared in the video, a 44-year-old named Germaine Moore, surrendered to police in Millbrook, Alabama, early Tuesday morning. Police in the neighboring city of Montgomery reportedly arrested another man on Monday evening and charged him in connection with distributing the video. Authorities also said they have located the alleged victim, who is now safe.
Far-flung law enforcement authorities based in Florida, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, and other states have received reports of the video and are imploring people to stop forwarding it. As the sheriff’s office in Newberry County, South Carolina, put it, “The problem with sharing this video is that every time this video is shared and viewed, the victim is exposed to more shame and victimization. You not only create a viral video but a viral victim. … While this is done in ‘an attempt to locate the perpetrator,’ you are still possessing and disseminating child pornography.”
Thousands of people reportedly circulated the video before Facebook stepped in to block users from uploading and sharing it. A spokesperson for the company told BuzzFeed, “We are aware of this issue. We reported the video to the appropriate authorities, and we have used PhotoDNA technology to automatically prevent future uploads and shares. Sharing any kind of child exploitative imagery using Facebook or Messenger is not acceptable—even to express outrage. We are and will continue to be aggressive in preventing and removing such content from our community.” (PhotoDNA is an image-matching program developed by Microsoft that helps online services wade through enormous swaths of photos and videos to stamp out child pornography.)
The dissemination of child pornography through social media has plagued other platforms as well. Slate technology writer April Glaser reported in December on users of Twitter’s video broadcasting app Periscope pressuring minors to perform sexual acts on live streams. Periscope said it purged over 36,000 accounts throughout the last year for engaging this behavior. And last week, Apple temporarily removed the popular encrypted messaging service Telegram from the App Store after finding evidence of child pornography distribution on the platform.