Michelle Carmela was born and raised in a Mafia family. She is a survivor of incest, child rape, child labour and child prostitution. For over twenty-five years, she has been sharing her story and speaking out against child abuse. She advocates for victims and advises organisations, NGOs and governments. Michelle is the founder and CEO of Once Upon An Eden.
Are there issues with child sex abuse images on Facebook?
Yes, indeed there are problems Facebook has with allowing child sex abuse images on their site. I have been using Facebook since 2008 and in the early months, I came across so many hideous sites that promoted various abuses of infants, children and teenagers. In those days, it was easier to launch campaigns against such ghastly sites and get results to have the sites taken down. Now it is not so easy. It seems the standards of Facebook have declined in certain areas and this would be one of them. I do not come across such sites as often, but they still crop up. When I report them to Facebook, usually the response I get justifies the offender’s right to be on Facebook. It is not until I launch a campaign or complain enough that the image or site is removed. Also past victims have informed me they know of child sex abusers that have social networking profiles on Facebook on which they are photographed with children.
Can you tell me what steps you take when you identify a child sex abuse image?
In all instances, I report to ICE and the FBI, as well as Facebook if I have specific information. Last year, I even had to call on myself to the FBI because someone from Russia, pretending to be an activist, sent me a link that was meant to be an educational tool and security device concerning teens being targeted for online pornography, but it turned out to be an actual site. So I reported her, the link and myself as I had opened it.
What do you think of the way Facebook deals with this issue?
I can understand Facebook wanting to protect freedom of speech. I can understand the company at times feels like their hands are tied. However, when children are seen being violated and exploited, it is essential Facebook remove these images. They must use common sense and seek to promote safety – this is for Facebook and all social media platforms. It should not be difficult when it is so blatant, although when it is insinuation, then the laws may be murky.
Is there anything you’d advise people to do themselves?
It is up to the adults in the homes to make certain they monitor their children’s pages and even private messages. Keep up with cyber safety as much as possible. The police often give free classes and seminars. Check Google or Bing and study as much as you can on cyber safety.
People sometimes lack common sense, and when they are posting up pictures of their adorable little one running around with or without a diaper or what have you – images that make it on mainstream TV by the way – they don’t stop to think that child sex abusers use these innocent photos for gratification. Facebook may want to start putting out some video classes on cyber safety and common sense and stop making decisions as if they were afraid of violating civil liberties.
- Michelle Carmela’s interview for Human Trafficking Awareness Month can be read here.
- Global VP of Security Research at Trend Micro Rik Ferguson’s interview about the issue of child sex abuse images on Facebook can be read here.
- Author, feminist and co-founder of Rapebook Trista Hendren’s interview about the issue of child sex abuse images on Facebook can be read here.
To report images of child sex abuse or suspected child trafficking, Rik Ferguson, Global VP of Security Research at Trend Micro, recommends people in the UK contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and if you are in the US, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).