Despite good intent, sharing a child abuse video could land you in trouble

Facebook jail

A chainmail video on Facebook claiming that by sharing it you can help put a child abuser in jail could instead get users in legal trouble. Law enforcement agencies have already traced the origins of a video showing sexual abuse of a young female to Alabama, but lawmakers in at least six states are warning users that sharing it to attempt to find the perpetrator is also a crime.

The video, authorities say, is child pornography — but users as far as France have complained about seeing the video because the video is accompanied by a request for shares to help identify the man in the video. Sharing could result in criminal charges for child pornography according to the Central Alabama Crime Stoppers, and users that see the post are asked instead to file an online tip with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

“Images and video depicting the sexual abuse of a child are pornography. Sharing them, even if your intent is to help, is a crime and continues to victimize the child,” the Polk County police in Florida urged readers in a Facebook post. Authorities from Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Texas have issued similar warnings.

The investigation has led police to believe the video originated from Alabama, though other reports suggest authorities haven’t yet determined when the video was shot.

Police in Marshall, Texas said the video is being spread through messages and that Facebook users shouldn’t open messages from someone they don’t know. Users are also warned to look for clues in the text that suggest the attached content could be illicit and delete the message immediately. Like a similar case from 2013, the police also said the message could possibly contain viruses along with that video.

Facebook told AI.com that the platform uses technology to prevent images of child exploitation from being uploaded to the platform. Content that is posted is immediately removed once found and the NCMEC contacted, Facebook said.

Social media users tend to be eager to hit that share button when they think it will help but many exploit that tendency. In 2017, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police warned Facebook users to stop sharing missing child posts that didn’t originate from authorities because in some cases, the child isn’t missing but hiding for their own safety. After the Manchester, England attack last year, several fake reports circulated along with the real requests from family members with the #missinginmanchester hashtag. In 2016, the Los Angeles Police Department warned of another fake missing person report that was possibly an attempt to get users’ sensitive information.