- Pictures of toddlers have been grabbed from open profiles on social media
- One mother says a photo of her daughter in fancy dress appeared on site
- Pictures of children have been posted along with explicit comments
- Police and schools say they are aware of the problem and warning parents
- But is unclear whether any criminal offence has been carried out
I strongly advise to put your social media profiles to private unless you absolutely need a public account. Thousands of images are stolen weekly from parents public accounts. Most of what Project Rescue Children sees in the DarkWeb are stolen images, that are manipulated by paedophiles.
British parents have expressed their horror after discovering photos of their children have been taken from social media and posted on a Russian website used by paedophiles.
The pictures of naked and semi-naked toddlers have been copied and uploaded to the foreign site alongside children in school uniforms and prom dresses grabbed from Twitter and Facebook.
Most of the images are accompanied by inappropriate comments from users across the world, which show they are being used for sexual gratification.
A mother from Preston, Lancashire, who asked not to be named, has spoken of her horror after finding a picture of her three-year-old daughter in fancy dress on the website.
It had been taken from the child’s grandparents’ open Facebook page and she was tipped off by another family member who had also been told that their children were on the site.
She said: ‘I was making myself something to eat when I heard about it, but I put the food down -I felt sick to my stomach.
The best way for users to control what people can find about them is to choose an ‘audience’ for each of the individual things that are shared.
People who share posts publicly on Facebook will also see a notice reminding them those posts can be seen by anyone, including people they may not know.
They will also be given guidance on how to change the audience for each post.
To quickly control who can find previous posts, users can go to Privacy Settings page and click ‘Limit the audience of posts you’ve shared in the past’.
This means any posts that were previously shared with Friends of Friends or Public will now be shared just to Friends.
‘When I went on the site and found the picture I was traumatised. I was only on one category – when you go on it you don’t really want to look – but I saw six kids I knew.
‘These kids and their parents have no idea that they’ve been taken, what they’re being used for or the disgusting comments that are underneath them.’
The images are hidden away in a section of the ‘free photo hosting site’, behind a facade of landscape and nature pictures on the site, which boasts 687,000 users with 41 million photos uploaded since 2006.
Lancashire Police confirmed they are aware of the situation and are investigating with the relevant authorities.
A spokesman for the force said: ‘We are aware of a foreign website displaying photographs of children which have been downloaded from social media sites and we recognise that this has caused some concern.
‘At this stage we are not aware of any indecent images and there are no concerns about the safeguarding of any children.
‘This is not a Lancashire specific issue and as the website is based outside the UK is a national and international matter, however we are liaising with other agencies with a view to progressing our enquiries.
‘As there is an ongoing investigation into this matter we would encourage people not to try to access this site.’
The mother whose child was on the site added: ‘The police said not to worry because the kids aren’t in danger, but I don’t want sick paedos looking at a picture of my daughter.
‘They said that because it’s a foreign website its much more difficult for them to act and shut the website down.
‘If it was this country they’d be kicking doors down.
‘I also think it’s weird that there are quite a few pictures of children from Preston on there when it’s a Russian site. To me, it suggests someone round here is involved.’
Among the pictures, are two photographs of teenage girls wearing the uniform of Lancashire schools – Fulwood Academy, Ashton Community Science College and Longridge High Schools.
Angry parents have flooded social media sites with angry messages as news of the website spread.
A parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: ‘People need to know about this and to know that its not safe to upload pictures of their children to social media sites.
‘They need to make sure that their accounts are private, but even then they can be hacked.
‘I’m going to be doing everything I can to get this removed, not only for my daughter’s sake, but for everyone else’s. I’m going to Parliament if I have to.’
MP Mark Hendrick, for Preston has vowed to take immediate action.
He said: ‘What I will do is get in touch with both the Home Office and the Foreign Office to see if anything can be done by existing police authorities in this country, with Russian counterparts, or with organisations such as Interpol.
‘There is a great deal of concern to parents, its very distressing that these pictures are not being used for the purposes which they were intended.
‘I will also get in touch with the Foreign Office to make representations to the Russian Embassy and make them aware that this practice is going on.’