People Are Using Facebook Messenger to Share Video of a Child Being Sexually Abused


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Thousands of Facebook users were overcome with shock and horror when they received a video on Facebook messenger of a young girl being sexually abused last week. The video, which quickly went viral, is now being called out as part of an "epidemic" of illegal content spreading via the messaging app. Now, police are trying to locate its origins and people are demanding answers from Facebook as to how something like this could happen.

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BuzzFeed reports that the horrifying footage began spreading through Facebook Messenger sometime last week. The video, depicting a young girl being forced to perform sex acts on an adult, was accompanied by a message encouraging users to continue to spread the video link in hopes that it would help identify the victim and find the perpetrator.

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Facebook Messenger is reportedly used by 1.2 billion people every month, which made it incredibly difficult for Facebook to immediately stop the spread of the video. By the time the company was able to use its PhotoDNA software to end it, it had been shared by thousands of people all over the country. 

"Upon further investigation into the matter of the CEI content being shared, we can confirm that this particular video was not in our Photo DNA bank which usually means it has not previously been uploaded to Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson told BuzzFeed on Tuesday. "As a result our DNA technology did not block the initial uploads and shares to users. Once we were made aware of the video on February 2nd, it was immediately added to our Photo DNA bank, which has prevented thousands of attempted uploads/shares since. We believe we identified the man depicted in the video. His Facebook and Instagram accounts have been deleted. We continue to liaise with the police on this case."

Police agencies from Missouri, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, and Alabama worked in conjunction to identify the man in the video. On Monday, February 5, the State of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Central Alabama Crime Stoppers were able to identify the suspect as 44-year-old Germaine Moore who resided in Millbrook, Alabama. After having warrants issued for his arrest, Moore turned himself into the Millbrook police and was subsequently taken into custody. 


ALEA

AL.com reports that the girl in the video, who was reportedly around 6 years old at the time it was taken, has been located and is currently safe. "She's got a long road ahead of her,'' Brooke Walker, commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for the State of Alabama, told AL.com. "This poor little girl is going to be victimized by this the rest of her life."

Moore is currently being charged with sexual assault of a child, distribution of video depicting the assault, and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Moore's fiancée, Tonya Hardy, was also arrested after refusing to cooperate with investigators on the case. She is being charged with hindering prosecution. 

At the time of his arrest, Moore was wanted on 11 felony charges in both Alabama and Detroit. Tony Garrett, executive director of Crime Stoppers, told AL.com that in Detroit, Moore is charged with sexually abusing three girls under the age of 13. Prosecutors believe that Moore assaulted the girls over a six-year period from 2011 to 2017. "The children were in the care and custody of the defendant, their paternal uncle, while their mother worked,'' said Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller. "It is alleged the defendant sexually assaulted the children at this mother's home in Detroit and at his home in Alabama."

For these crimes, he is charged with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, two counts of child sexually abusive activity, one of using a computer to commit a crime, and one count of distributing sexually explicit, visual, or verbal matter of a child.

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On Monday, police in Montgomery, Alabama, arrested 42-year-old Jarrell Washington and charged him with one count of possession of child pornography and one count of dissemination of child pornography. Police expect there to be more arrests related to the distribution of this video. 

In the event that users come across video or photos of children being "physically abused or sexually assaulted," Facebook has outlined three ways to handle it:

1. Contact your local police immediately. 

2. Report the offending images to Facebook directly.

3. If the video features a child or children, notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children using the Cyber Tipline which can be visited online or reached by phone at 1-800-843-5678. 

Because images and videos of children being sexually abused or exploited are against Facebook's community guidelines, they strongly advise people not to spread, share, download, or comment on things of this nature -- not even if they believe doing so will help in some way. 

Law enforcement officials have shared the same sentiment. "If you get this video, don't panic, don't think we're going to be coming to arrest you, but please delete it,'' district attorney Randall Houston said at a press conference, according to AL.com. "If you feel it's important to notify somebody let us know, but we don't need you bring it to us. We don't need you to make a copy, just delete it, and do not distribute it. That's all you've got to do."

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