Parents are often unaware of the dangers posed by posting photos of their children online, but child photo abuse – real and deepfake – is a growing problem. Once images of your child are on the internet, anyone can steal and abuse them, including strangers, child predators, family members, and even other kids or teens.
Any piece of content that has been posted online is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get taken down. Therefore, parents who share photos of their children online and teens who use social media should be aware of the risks online photo sharing presents and take action to protect themselves.
Reports of Image Abuse in 2023
In 2023 alone, numerous reports of child photo abuse surfaced, including real and synthetic child pornography. In November, a 48-year-old Washington D.C. gym owner named Michael Everts was arrested and charged with distributing images of child sex abuse. This arrest was the result of a sting operation carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the FBI was alerted to Everts’s crimes when an employee for the dating app, Sniffies, reported that one of the app’s users was actively looking for underage boys (Augenstein, 2023).
Furthermore, a recent investigation by The Guardian revealed that thousands of young people in the United Kingdom watch or share indecent photos of children each year. While some of these images come from child pornography or are the result of grooming or the consensual sharing of sexual photos between underage children and teens, others come from deepfakes.
In some regions of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, more than half of all individuals who view illegal child abuse photos are children and teens (Grant, 2023). According to a recent report from the Children’s Commissioner of England, 79 percent of young people come across violent pornography before the age of 18.
Additionally, the report found that the online platform where most young people encountered pornography was Twitter, meaning that this graphic media is not only available on websites dedicated to adult content (de Souza, 2023). Recently, Facebook and Instagram also faced criticism for directing children to sexually explicit content and enabling child predators to seek out and contact minors on their sites (Gibson, 2023).
These cases demonstrate that even seemingly harmless social media platforms that many of us use daily can be abused by child predators looking to prey on minors, making it all the more important for social media users to stay informed about the potential for their photos to be misused.
Deepfakes also complicate the matter, adding numerous cases of synthetic child pornography online, making it difficult to track what pornography is real, and what is a deepfake. In 2023, the FBI issued a public service announcement warning against the rise of sexually explicit deepfakes, specifically generated using existing photos and videos of women and children (FBI, 2023).
This means anyone with the technology can create synthetic pornography of women and children by extracting innocent photos of them from their social media profiles – resulting in an online world that is overrun with sexual photo abuse. Deepfake technology isn’t limited to adult use either; children also have access to it and are even creating sexually explicit deepfakes of their classmates (Moshtaghian, 2023).
Use ImageShield to monitor your photos online
Once you put photos of yourself or your child on the internet, it’s difficult to know whether or not predators, or even the average person, are taking these photos and using them for malicious purposes. With ImageShield, a photo monitoring service that helps people track the photos they share online, you can find out whether the photos you’ve shared on Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere are being misused.
Get your free ImageShield report today on the security of the photos you’ve shared on Facebook and Instagram. Visit our blogs for more information on media literacy and how to protect yourself and your family from photo abuse.