Committing a crime to catch war criminals does not exonerate the original crime.

This is an important lesson to note for hundreds of thousands of Facebook Messenger users who, in recent periods, received a link to child pornography in their inboxes and, rather than alerting the authorities concerned, passed it on. According to BuzzFeed News, these armchair detectives sought to unmask the man in the video, which depicts an adult forcing a young girl into fellatio. Regrettably, anyone who forwarded the content may now find themselves inadvertently implicated in smut distribution.

“Someone who sets a associate containing child pornography online, emails that connection or mails that relate in any manner, electronically or otherwise, can be charged with the distribution of child pornography, ” Michael Bachner, a former prosecutor and current white-collar felon defense lawyer at New York City firm Bachner& Associates, tells the Daily Dot. “Anyone who opens that connection, knowing that it contains images of child pornography, would be guilty of possession of that child pornography.”

It’s not immediately clear how the video wound up online embarking upon, but according to AL.com, Alabama authorities have arrested its creator, Germaine Moore, 44, who turned himself in on Monday after the video went viral and produced a barrage of media attention. Between 2011 and 2017, Moore reportedly targeted his three nieces while their mom was at work. He is now charged with sexual assault of a child, distribution of child pornography, and first-degree criminal sex conduct in Alabama, where he lives; as well as eight felony charges in Michigan, where his mother resides and where some of the abuse took place. Alabama law enforcement have also charged Moore’s fiancee, Tonya Hardy, with impeding the department of public prosecutions.

Also arrested: 42 -year-old Jerrell Washington by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force; he faces accusations for the possession and dissemination of child pornography. The report doesn’t say whether or not Washington was the first to post the video, but it does say that police anticipate more distribution-related accuses will follow.

Authorities have a long trail to retrace. ClickOrlando reports that the video surfaced months ago, in August 2017. But just last week, a sergeant with the Orlando Police Department’s Special Victims Unit told the station that dozens of locals reported receiving the contents in recent periods. “It’s picked up viral status on social media and people are blindly sharing it in the interest of trying to identify the suppose and the child, ” Sgt. Tami Edwards said.

Facebook does an infamously spotty job removing problem content–see this 2017 ProPublica report spotlighting the platform’s inconsistent policing of hate speech–which might help explain why so many people felt feel compelled to share child pornography across their social networks, inside and outside the United States, and why it went on for so long.( The video showed up in France .) But even if all these thousands of people had ostensibly admirable intents in head when they hit send, an is making an effort to uncover the perpetrator’s identity by plastering his face all over the internet ultimately backfired on the main victims. Now her image is all over the internet, too.

“If somebody receives a video of child pornography, or an image of child pornography or of child sexual abuse-related material, they should not share it with anyone, ” Lindsey Olson, executive director of the Exploited Children Division at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children( NCMEC ), tells the Daily Dot. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can report substance that suggests child sexual abuse to NCMEC, and NCMEC makes that information available to the appropriate authorities. According to Olson, the organization’s cyber tip line fielded over 10.2 million reports of children’s sexual exploitation in 2017, most of which concerned child pornography.

“We don’t want to contribute to the spread of this content, we don’t want to continue to victimize the child, ” who, Olson added, “is being revictimized every time that content is shared.”

On top of constantly re-implicating the victim, whose photo is now crisscrossing the web without her permission, wittingly sharing child pornography is always illegal. And in this particular case, where dissemination occurred on the internet, transgressing both country and national borders, its prosecution would likely fall within federal jurisdiction. That, in turn, intends anyone who knowingly makes, possesses, receives, or shares child pornography could face prison time. A person who knowingly forwards such content might be looking at a minimum of five years behind bars, with time tacked on for various sex acts depicted in the images and for any prior sex crime sentences the sender might have on their record.

While it might seem unlikely that every person who clicked and shared the link will be prosecuted, Bachner says he would” not rule out at least a law enforcement investigation” if person or persons knowingly shared its contents.” Certainly, someone who is shares it multiple times increases the chances of prosecution. Given “members attention” this matter has now received, a person who shares it post revealing becomes a more likely target of law enforcement ,” he added.

Though broad dissemination does seem to have landed Moore at his local police station and helped the police identify the victim, the ends, ultimately, don’t absolve criminal signifies.

“You can’t commit a crime to catch a criminal, ” Bachner says. “You can’t commit an offence with the defense being,’ I was really trying to get to do a better job.’”

Facebook, Bachner says, is very likely to escape guilt because it took action to address and halt the video’s spread. The website did not answer the Daily Dot’s request for comment but said in a statement to Louisiana CBS affiliate WBRC that it removes sexually exploitative images of children as they crop up and reports them to NCMEC. Its software also scans and flags this kind of content, barring future uploads.

We do not allow the sharing of child exploitative images on Facebook or Messenger–even to express outrage, ” the statement said. “Regardless of intention, sharing such imagery is harmful and illegal … We advocate people never to share such content and to report it to local authorities immediately.”

That’s what Olson urges, too: Notify NCMEC , notify the platform on which you received the illicit substance, and notify law enforcement. Don’t open the content, and definitely don’t fury post about it on Facebook. That simply makes you part of the problem.

If you encounter content online that sexually exploits children , notify the Cyber Tip Line here.

Read more: https :// www.dailydot.com/ irl/ child-porn-crime /