Midwest City Police Investigate Child Porn, Sexting on Instagram

Early this month, Midwest City Police confirmed that they were in the early stages of investigating possible child pornography containing images of Midwest City High School students on Instagram.

According to a local news report, a student reported the page after his younger sister told him about it. When he saw the nude photos of girls as young as 14, he did a Google search for "how to report child porn," and reporting the Instagram profile to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The page, which violates Instagram's terms of use, has since been deleted.

The whistleblower said that it appeared the images were sent by the girls to boyfriends or romantic interests, but the boys turned around and submitted the sexually explicit images to the Instagram page. He told reporters, "I just heard that it was a bunch of guys posting pictures of a bunch of girls that I guess they sent the guys pictures and they were posting them online you know making fun of them and stuff like that."

Oklahoma's Interpretation of Sexting

This story seems to illustrate perfectly the dangers of "sexting." In and of itself, sexting, or sending nude or sexually suggestive images or videos via text messaging or mobile devices, is not a criminal offense in Oklahoma. However, there are several aspects of sexting which can bring serious felony charges.

When the subject of a sexually explicit photograph is a minor under the age of 18, the image is considered to be child pornography, regardless of whether or not the subject has reached the legal age of consent to sex (16 in Oklahoma) and whether or not he or she consented to taking the picture or even took and sent it himself or herself.

Anyone who has a sexted picture of an person under the age of 18 is therefore in possession of child pornography. Anyone who distributes the picture, either by sending it, showing it to others, forwarding it, or posting it on another site, is guilty of distributing child pornography.

Other charges may also apply. Earlier this month, a Tulsa man was arrested on federal extortion charges for operating a "revenge porn" site. On this site, men would submit nude images of ex-girlfriends and other women without the knowledge of the victims.

When the women became aware of their intimate photos on public display on the internet, they could have the pictures removed by paying a $250 fee. While sexting is usually considered to be a crime involving teens, this particular act targeted adults.

However, investigators say at least one of the victims was under the age of 18 when the pictures were taken, so child pornography charges could still be filed. Whether you are a teen or an adult, "sexting" can be a risky proposition.

Even images sent through apps such as SnapChat, designed to quickly delete the image, can be captured through screen shots or recovered from the device's memory. The consequences of sending a nude image of oneself can be widespread and long-lasting, and the legal ramifications of sharing a sexted image can bring felony criminal charges and sex offender registration.

It is not worth the risk.  For more information visit Phillips & Associates.

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