Experts warn that minors may be selling illicit images on Snapchat

Some users make thousands of dollars a month selling photos and videos

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – While many teens look to fast food and retail for their first jobs, some are turning to Snapchat as a way to make money. It’s known as premium Snapchat and it has some making thousands of dollars selling explicit images and videos through the app.

“People have figured out they can offer basically their own porn channel, their own porn website," investigator Scott Bailey with N1 Discovery told News4Jax. "Not to have to pay anybody, they don’t have to, you know, throw up hardware and software and manage websites and things like that."

"They just run it through Snapchat," he added.

Snapchat’s community guidelines and terms of service forbid accounts that distribute porn. But that’s not stopping people from making these exclusive accounts. Bailey has researched the topic for months.

“It’s like the wanted ads. People just, list after list after list of everybody that’s promoting their private storyboard basically,” Bailey said.

Users advertise their premium Snapchat page on other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Their services routinely include package deals, like seven photos and seven videos for $20.

“If you see what you like and you want more, then you can message them and they will tell you what they’re selling, and they have different packages,” Bailey explained.

He said there are people who earn about $130 an hour and thousands of dollars a month through these services. When it comes to payment, most users accept Venmo, Paypal, even Amazon gift cards.

The legality of these “businesses” is very questionable. Snapchat’s privacy policy states that if the company is aware of an inappropriate account, it can remove the content and terminate the account.

With 186 million users as of 2018, it is impossible for Snapchat to police every single account. The concern for parents is whether their children will try to set up accounts for this purpose.

“You may not be able to tell the exact age of the person that’s advertising, but you certainly can go out there and say, ‘Oh my gosh, some of these certainly look like teenagers,’” said Bailey.

News4Jax looked into some of these accounts and noticed a common theme. Many of these premium Snapchat accounts are promoting how young they are, using hashtags like “jailbait.”

“I can tell you that we’ve worked digital forensic cases of children, and you’re talking kids as young as 7, 8,” said Bailey.

Bailey recommends checking your child’s account and looking for two separate accounts, one for friends and family and one for premium Snapchat. Also, check your child’s Snapchat score – an average score for a fairly active user is around 60,000, but those that sell premium services have numbers over a million. Yet having a high Snapchat score doesn't mean they are doing anything illicit.

To report abuse on Snapchat, users can press and hold on the open content until a flag button appears in the bottom left corner. Snapchat has also reportedly partnered with safety experts, such as Connect Safely, and built an online safety center to provide parents, teachers and Snapchatters with safety tips, research and resources to help keep users safe online.

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