Every year approximately one in five young people receive sexual approaches or solicitations from people they encounter online, usually in chat rooms or via instant messages.
Our Facebook feeds often exhort us to share pictures of missing teenagers and family members. Facebook has become the digital milk carton to draw our attention over breakfast.
Police forces use their Facebook pages to highlight suspects, show pictures of missing persons and tell us about successful arrests of criminals. Now social media is being used to spread awareness about people that the police want to catch.
The New Brunswick Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)'s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) Unit is asking people to share pictures across their social media networks of a man sought in an on-going investigation into a sexual assault against a little girl and the production of child sexual abuse images.
The video first appeared on the Internet in 2005. and since then various police agencies across North America have attempted to identify the man and his victim.
The pictures are captured from a video in which a man is abusing a girl aged approximately 3 years old. Police believe the video was produced somewhere in North America and that the girl is likely between 10 and 12 years of age today.
The man is described as Caucasian, approximately 180 to 200 pounds, with brown hair. He has a distinctive dark circular mark on his right forearm and a ring on his left hand. Images and further details can be found on the RCMP New Brunswick Facebook page
Cpl. Jean-Marc Paré of the RCMP's ICE Unit says "We're asking people to distribute the images of this man via their social media networks and encourage their friends to share it in the hope that someone will know who he is and contact police."
Steps are being made to catch suspected abusers interacting online in the hope that abuse such as this can be prevented from happening.
In November, the BBC reported that 1,000 men from around the world made contact with a 10-year-old 'girl' in the Philippines.
Researchers used a fake profile of a girl, called Sweetie who interacted in an online chat room. During the investigation Dutch researchers found that many of the men interacting with the fake profile wanted to pay for the girl to take off her clothes in front of a webcam.
Terre des Hommes, a children’s rights organisation said its researchers were “astounded” by the amount of responses that Sweetie received. It will pass all of the information it received to Interpol.
In 2012 a Mom in Texas posed as her 12 year old daughter on Facebook to catch and bring to justice a predator who was stalking her daughter.
It is fantastic that social media networks are used to catch predators and abusers, and it is great that these sites are used as a force for good to find missing persons.
It is sad that we need to continue to propagate images of predators and abusers and hope that they will be brought to justice using the collective sharing power of us all.