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Nude images posted on social media site

By AMANDA SCOTT

Staff writer

The Calvert County Sheriff’s Office is working in partnership with the Maryland State Police and other regional police agencies to investigate inappropriate pictures of young girls on a social media site that were brought to their attention last weekend.

Inappropriate pictures of teen girls and women from the Southern Maryland area, including nude photographs and close-ups of individual body parts, have been circulating on a popular social networking site, according to information provided by the sheriff’s office.

“It’s a widespread, pretty much nationwide, situation,” Sgt. Tim Fridman with the sheriff’s office said Friday. “Calvert County has stayed ahead of it by pretty much taking down any inappropriate photos” as quickly as they can.

The images and videos have been posted on several different pages on the Instagram website, according to a sheriff’s office press release. On Sunday, Dec. 15, the photos were brought to the attention of the sheriff’s office by a high school student, and the next morning the sheriff’s office contacted the MSP Computer Crimes Section, Fridman said. The sheriff’s office has been seeking technical assistance with the investigation from the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the state police Computer Crimes Section.

The photos, Fridman said, are “not sexual in nature in the sense that it’s not an act. It’s more nudity.” He said that at one point, the photos were sent willingly, and that no one’s phones had been hacked or stolen the images. Because the photos are coming from so many different sources “it makes it one of those crimes that’s difficult to prosecute,” Fridman said.

In Calvert, two victims have been identified as of Friday afternoon, Fridman said, adding that he couldn’t say if they were underage or not.

“At this point,” according to a sheriff’s office press release, “the images do not rise to the level of child pornography under Maryland law; however, the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office would like to urge the public to be aware of these issues and to report occurrences to Instagram’s Help Center at help.instagram.com or the National center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cyber Tip Line at www.cybertipline.com.”

“Parents are urged to talk with their children and explain to them the possible repercussions and dangers of taking photographs of themselves in a sexually explicit manner and posting on the Internet,” an MSP press release about the investigation states. To aid parents in that conversation, MSP said in the release, www.netsmartz.org and www.ncmec.org are good resources “for parents in steps to take to help protect children from being exploited on the Internet.”

In school, students continually are reminded of the dangers of posting inappropriate photos of themselves on the Internet, Calvert County Public Schools director of student services Kim Roof said Friday.

In the spring, Roof said, the students attended a cyber safety event and also addressed the issue during the schools’ recent bullying summit. Once the students get back from winter break, she said, the school is going to try to host another cyber safety event.

Throughout this incident the school system remained “in close contact” with the sheriff’s office, Roof said.

“We urge parents … that they really need to be having these conversations with their students about what gets posted and … sending these photos.”

ascott@somdnews.com