Police investigate WhatsApp group over violent and sexual images

Officers suggest a good rule of thumb for young people sharing material online - would they be willing to show the same pictures or video to strangers in their home town market place?

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File picture of mobile phone screen showing WhatsApp app / Credit: iStock

Police in Eastern Finland have been investigating a WhatsApp group where they say children were spreading images of sexual offences, violence and other pornography.

In a statement, police say the content can be found elsewhere on the internet, but was distributed again by this WhatsApp group and included animal pornography, and videos of children engaged in sexual acts.

According to Tuomo Lepola from Eastern Finland police, no local children were shown in any of the materials circulated by the WhatsApp group, and they have no reason to believe any Finnish minors were exploited.

Sixty young people from all over Finland were part of the WhatsApp group where police say the images were shared. The group was run by a young Finn in southern Finland, and members of the group have generally been under 15 years old.

Many of the users who shared the pictures and videos in the group used pseudonyms to hide their identities, and officers have been working to establish who they are in real life.

Police are urging parents to discuss with their children some common sense ground rules for using social media and the risks of chat channels. Officers say that children should be thinking about what material they are sharing in the chat groups, and whether they might be prepared to show the same material to strangers in their home town marketplace, for example.

“An image or other media may never disappear completely if it is forwarded, so it is worth considering before putting a picture on social media, or even sending it to a friend” says Tuomo Lepola.