BEWARE: Child porn message spreading through Facebook's Messenger app

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Federal authorities are warning Facebook users not to click or share obscene content in the wake of a video circulating on social media, even if you are attempting to seek justice.

Messages that apparently contain a pornographic video of a child of unknown origins have been spreading through Facebook’s Messenger feed, and have been reported nationwide.

Facebook urges users to never, under any circumstances, share files depicting the sexual exploitation of a child: "The sharing of child exploitative images – regardless of intention – is harmful and illegal."

It is a federal offense to send or possess child pornography, as well as a crime in Florida. The Jacksonville division of the FBI issued an advisory Saturday warning against downloading or sharing messages containing such files because that could be considered distribution.

We have turned off our ability to receive messages on the News4Jax Facebook page in response and have instructed our news team to do the same with their own fan pages. We also notified the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and federal authorities immediately after receiving the video.

"We were getting waves of Facebook messages that was clearly obscene content," said News4Jax digital executive producer Garrett Pelican said. "It wasn’t really clear that if the people sending them to us were sending them out of concern and wanting to do the right thing or if this was some kind of orchestrated attack targeting our inbox."

Since then we’ve learned that this is something happening across the country to other television stations and media outlets. It may have started in Alabama and authorities there are investigating. But if you do get a message either from email or Facebook News4Jax's crime and safety analyst and former JSO officer Gil Smith said make a phone call. 

"You should not transmit to anyone for any reason. Not even to police," Smith said. "The best thing to do would be to contact police. Call them and ask them what you should do that way you have a record and you want to get the report number."

Facebook advises those who see images or videos of a child being sexually exploited to do the following: 

  • Contact local law enforcement immediately and report the photos or videos to Facebook.
  • People who come across images or video that depict a child being sexually exploited should also notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843-5678, or visiting https://report.cybertip.org.
  • DO NOT share, download or comment on the content: It can be criminal to share, or send messages with, photos and videos of children being sexually abused and exploited. You won't be asked to provide a copy of the content in any report to Facebook.
  • To learn more about Facebook's policy on photos or videos depicting sexual or physical abuse, click here.

According to an FBI spokesperson, there are several ways you can minimize the risks associated with using social networking sites and applications:

  • Never click on or open unsolicited emails or messages from unknown contacts.
  • Report inappropriate activity or content to the website immediately upon receipt. Include the sender's screen name, but do NOT forward the content to others, including website administrators or law enforcement, as it could be considered distribution.
  • Immediately delete the file and all record of the communication. 
  • Notify law enforcement using the Cyber Tip Line operated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in partnership with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Reports may be made 24-hours a day, 7 days a week online at www.cybertipline.org or call 1-800-843-5678.
  • Check privacy settings and account security. 

The FBI encourages parents to educate young people on the essentials of online security in an effort to help protect them from child predators and other dangers on the Internet. Please visit the FBI's Safe Online Surfing website for additional information. 

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