A woman who has worked in child exploitation investigation has issued a warning to parents about posting photos of their kids on the internet.
Alex Hoffman said by sharing images of children parents can invite ‘digital kidnappers’ onto social media pages – even when an account is private.
‘Digital kidnapping is when somebody steals the photos of your minor from the internet usually a social media platform and either pretends to be the child or pretends to be the child’s parents,’ she explained.
The 24-year-old law student from California claimed innocent snaps of children can be inappropriately altered and modified using AI technology.
She said the only way to completely avoid a child’s image ending up in the hands of a digital kidnapper is to avoid posting them altogether and to be very wary of who’s following your pages, even on a private profile.
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A woman who had a job investigating online child crimes has revealed why parents should never post photos of their kids social media – and why you should be wary even on private accounts
Alex said these online predators will take a photo of a minor they’ve found on the internet and ‘alter them to look explicit or show the child doing something inappropriate’.
‘Digital kidnappers can also take photos of a child and make them into an inappropriate video using AI materials,’ she explained in a TikTok video.
‘If these photos or videos are placed on the dark web they can often result in more serious crimes such as identity theft or real kidnappings.’
Alex said a lot of digital kidnappers are female and use specific hashtags in their stolen pictures and videos to promote what they’re doing to their intended audience.
The only way to completely eliminate the risk of these lurkers finding, altering and posting your child’s photos on the dark web is to never share images of minors online.
‘If you do post a photo of your child make sure you’re on a private account,’ she advised with a caveat.
‘Really really monitor your followers and make sure all the photos of your child are appropriate and have no chance of being taken in an explicit manner.’
Alex’s ‘scary’ warning sparked concern among parents who viewed the clip but many were thankful for the sound advice.
‘Keep spreading the word! Well done,’ one woman said.
‘Someone made a profile of my 14 year old on Instagram. I reported it and it’s still not deleted,’ shared a mum.
‘I just deleted all my videos with my face now I’m scared,’ another wrote.
‘You are really giving out new and informative information. Great job. Just saying,’ added a fourth.
Previously, Alex lifted the lid on another horrifying reason why you shouldn’t post photos of your children on social media.
Previously, Alex lifted the lid on another horrifying reason why you shouldn’t post photos of your children on social media
‘A majority of photos uploaded of children to the dark web are taken from normal people’s Facebook and Instagram pages,’ she said.
‘If you see a suggested person on your Facebook page that you have no mutual friends with, it means that they searched your profile at least three times.’
Alex explained that ‘the dark web is not some mysterious and exclusive place,’ saying ‘all you have to do is download a browser’ to access hidden internet sites.
‘Child exploitation is a billion-dollar industry and there are thousands of websites being created every single day to share photos and videos,’ she said.
‘My advice to parents would be to really limit your child on social media because photos and videos can be warped and placed on the dark web extremely easily.’
Alex’s eye-opening video was viewed more than 7.9 million times and received thousands of comments in one day.
‘A majority of photos uploaded of children to the dark web are taken from normal people’s Facebook and Instagram pages,’ she said
The aspiring lawyer filmed a series of follow-up clips further explaining why it’s best to keep your children off of social media.
‘A lot of photos of children that are put on the dark web are not explicit,’ she noted, saying she saw a lot of pictures of children in gymnastics and dance leotards.
‘These parents often had no idea that their child was on the dark web. Additionally, just normal photos of children can be warped into images that are explicit even though there was never an explicit photo being taken,’ she added.
‘Lastly, and probably most disturbingly, there will be children who go viral on the dark web, and there’s no reason for this. It just happens, and there will be pages and websites and forums dedicated to just sending pictures of this child.’
Many commenters wanted to know if they are safe to post pictures of their children if they have their profiles set to private.
‘It depends,’ she responded. ‘I think that when you’re on private it significantly decreases the chances that predators are going to likely see the photo of your child. However, I do strongly believe that it is based on the content of the photo.’
Alex explained that issues arrive when there is an ‘erotic potential’ to a picture that a parent might not recognise.
‘By erotic potential, I mean a photo of your child eating, a photo of your child in a diaper, a photo of your child in distress, a photo of your child in a bathing suit,’ she explained. ‘These are the types of photos that a predator could warp out of context.
‘They can add whatever they want. They can add a person to the photo. They can subtract things from the photo. They can create things that were not actually there in the photo. We’re all adults. We know what’s suggestive and we know what’s not.
‘But you also need to be a little bit careful and kind of read between the lines and see what could possibly be taken out of context and what could possibly be created in a photo if you are choosing to put your child on the internet,’ she concluded.
Many commenters were admittedly shocked by Alex’s warning.
‘Wait what?! They edit these photos before putting them in the dark web? Honestly that’s scary. I had no idea,’ one person wrote.
‘It’s extremely alarming to me how many parents in all these comments didn’t know this happens and how common it is,’ another added.
‘Ever since I’ve had my children, people have asked me why I don’t share more pictures of them. This is exactly why!’ someone else noted. ‘But some people just don’t get it.’