I saw a few people post about this over the weekend, and then again today I spotted this warning:
As the article points out, sharing that video of child abuse is a crime. Simply being in possession of that video is a crime. It’s a very serious, Federal, offense in the US. It is not something you want to mess with.
Unfortunately, we seem to have developed this sort of vigilante idea about social media. It’s not just in sharing things like this to show people how awful it is, or find the perp in the video, it’s also about posing as a child, attempting to draw the attention of an adult, and confronting them in person, or outing them on social media. I know a lot of you are probably in favor of all of these things. After all, a predator deserves what is coming to them, but I am not in favor of it, at all.
First off, let’s talk about videos and photos. As it turns out, my professional life involves working with something called eDiscovery. I work for a law firm, and I handle electronic evidence. That means that when someone is involved in civil litigation, not criminal which is not the area I work, all the relevant data is collected from their computers or mobile devices and passes through my hands in some form or other before it is then reviewed by our attorneys. Anyone in that position has only one course of action if they discover child pornography in the data they are working with. Pick up the phone, call the FBI and don’t touch anything.
Any other action that could be taken in that situation, is a crime. Ignoring it and passing it on to attorneys? The firm is guilty of possession, I am guilty of distribution. Delete it and pretend it wasn’t there? I’m still guilty of possessing it in the first place, and I’ve also violated the ethical duty I have to not destroy the evidence from our own case.
Mind you, I have never been in this situation, but it’s something that we all know, and it’s part of handling electronic evidence. If you don’t do this kind of thing for a living, i.e you work in computer forensics, electronic investigations, etc. you do not normally have any reason to ever come across this type of thing. If you do, because of social media posts, or someone sending something to you in an app or email, the only appropriate response is to contact law enforcement and/ the network you saw it on. Viewing it, passing it on, downloading it, and so on are all crimes.
This is really the issue I have with all this vigilante behavior. Engaging in criminal activity, whether it be wandering around the dark places of the internet seeking out photos and videos, to tracking down and assaulting the people you come in contact with there is not actually helping anything. It might feel good to physically assault someone you think is a predator. It’s not going to feel so good when you’re the one who winds up in jail.
Please, do not allow yourself to commit further crimes because it sounds like a good idea to spread something on social media. Social media can do a lot of good in helping connect people, but it can also do a lot of damage when a mob forms and people stop thinking for themselves. You’re not helping anyone by going to prison.