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Imagine the Horror of Going on Instagram and Realizing Your Infant Daughter's Photos Are Being Associated With Porn

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"I'm sick to my stomach."

The Florida couple was disturbed when they learned photos of their daughter they uploaded to Instagram were being used for sexual role playing. (Image source: WPTV-TV)

Like many mothers, Angelica Calad can't take enough photos of her infant daughter, often posting them on social media sites like Instagram. But when Calad and the baby's father learned how their photos were being used, it made them sick.

WPTV-TV reported that the West Palm Beach, Fla., parents found out photos of their daughter Taylen, not even a year old, were being copied onto Instagram pages involved in pornographic role-playing.

taylen The Florida couple was disturbed when they learned photos of their daughter they uploaded to Instagram were being used for sexual role-playing. (Image source: WPTV-TV)

"I was just completely just blown away and the morbid words I was reading, I was just, I'm sick to my stomach," Josh Biggs, Taylen's father, told WPTV.

"It's beyond disturbing, I couldn't even read it," Calad said.

The blog Nanny Notes warned about Instagram role-playing earlier this year.

Role-playing is an activity in which people assume the role of a character in a fictional setting and interact to create a story. This type of role-playing is typically done by fans of books/movies such as Harry Potter. Those who want to role-play on Instagram simply start their story from an image and post character actions in the description using appropriate hash tags like #roleplay.

[…]

The most alarming aspect of role-playing on Instagram is not that a child is involved. The disturbing condition occurs when a child predator role-plays and uses the image of a child as a springboard for writing inappropriate scenarios. Such images are often copied without permission from a young Instagramer with loose privacy settings. What’s worse, the child's image doesn’t have to be suggestive in any way for someone to use it as the basis for a pornographic discussion.

The incident with Calad and Bigg's daughter isn't the first one involving an infant; earlier this year, the Toronto Star reported on a similar case, including some of the dialogue surrounding the picture of a baby:

“I need mommy and would be nwaughty with me and tell me things,” writes a user called @melissa_kelsey_babys in a screenshot posted by a denouncer with the tag #downwithbabyrp.

A user called ggjjjjjjjjgffgbbhhhgcbbnvxmmbb volunteers: “Ok @melissa_kelsey_babys I will be ur mommy.”

A local police officer told the Toronto Star at the time that even if explicit photos weren't being used, the text associated with the photo could still be considered child pornography. But this "text-definition" of child pornography only exists in Canada, the Star reported.

Meanwhile, tech giants are taking action to combat online child abuse.

Google and Microsoft announced Monday that they would be using software to make it harder for users to search for child abuse material online.

Writing ahead of a British summit on Internet safety, Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt said his company has fine-tuned its search function to clean up results for more than 100,000 search terms. When users type in queries that may be related to child sexual abuse, they will find no results that link to illegal content.

"We will soon roll out these changes in more than 150 languages, so the impact will be truly global," Schmidt wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.

The restrictions are being launched in Britain and other English-speaking countries first. Similar changes are being brought out on Microsoft's Bing search engine.

The two companies are sharing picture detection technology to identify child abuse photographs whenever they appear on their systems, and Google is also testing technology to identify and remove illegal videos.

Other measures include warnings at the top of Google search for more than 13,000 queries to make it clear that child abuse is illegal.

Campaigners welcomed the move but doubted how much impact the changes would bring. Child predators tend to share images away from public search engines, they said.

"They don't go on to Google to search for images," said Jim Gamble, the former chief of Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Center. "They go on to the dark corners of the Internet on peer-to-peer websites."

British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed there is more to be done, and said the next step was to go after the "dark net," where people secretly share images away from the public search engines.

His government announced Monday that its National Crime Agency is joining forces with the FBI to target pedophiles who use encrypted networks online.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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