I talk to many people who think it’s hard to find Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM, formerly Child Pornography). The sad reality is, it’s more common than you think.
Not only can CSAM be found on websites and dark web spaces, but it’s also floating around on common social media sites.
Anecdotal Experiences with Child Sexual Abuse Material
We’ve had clients who’ve found these images on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, X (formerly Twitter), Discord, and even Pinterest.
In our forensic work, these individuals were often seeking this material, but what should you do if you come across questionable images yourself?
What Steps Should you Take?
Report the Image to the Social Site
If you are on a social media site like Facebook or X, the first thing you should do is report the image with the site’s reporting tools.
For example, Facebook has the option to report a post on every single image on the site. So, if you think it’s questionable, you can report the image directly.
Once you report the offending material, it is out of your hands. Whether or not the site will actually investigate your report is unknown. Our staff members have reported images on these sites and only occasionally do the reports get investigated. However, sometimes you get a message that basically says they don’t have the capacity to check it out.
Report the image to NCMEC
NCMEC, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is a private non-profit organization whose mission is to help children in exactly these circumstances. They have a cyber tip line to report the images online or to call someone and make the report via phone. NCMEC can then investigate the image.
Advanced Child Sexual Abuse Material Reporting Tools
Images reported to NCMEC are fed into a database and PhotoDNA program.
Major tech companies, like Google and Meta, Facebook’s parent, use PhotoDNA. It flags the content to be taken down. Additionally, if the investigation warrants a report to the police, NCMEC takes care of this.
Report to your local ChildLine
In addition to reporting the image to NCMEC, you can also make a report to your state’s child abuse reporting line.
This will start a similar process to reporting to NCMEC but at a local level. This will provide a second resource to investigate the images.
The Department of Human Services administers Pennsylvania’s ChildLine.
See the latest research on criminality related to social media:
Keep a record of the reports that you make about Child Sexual Abuse Material
The first thing to be mindful of is what you do with the image that you feel is inappropriate and need to report.
Do NOT take a screen shot of the image.
If it is CSAM, you will then have it in your possession which is illegal. If you do feel that you need to do so, make sure you keep all documentation of reporting the images to the authorities. Screenshot call logs, keep email records, screenshot your social media reports. Keep all of these things in one place on ONE device.
We’ve had clients make reports and then were investigated for possessing CSAM images. Having the documentation that they screenshot an image for the express purpose of reporting it to NCMEC allowed them to avoid criminal charges.
The proliferation of CSAM online makes the idea of ridding the internet of it feel very daunting. While some companies do report CSAM images to NCMEC and the authorities, not all do.
If you come across content that you feel is inappropriate, please report it to the appropriate agencies or authorities.
Have you found yourself in legal trouble due to your sexual behavior? Seek assistance before the court mandates it, with Sexual Addiction Treatment Services.
Do you feel your sexual behavior, or that of someone you love, is out of control? Consult with a professional.