UTICA, N.Y.-- NEWSChannel 2's Facebook inbox has been temporarily disabled, after multiple outside accounts used the platform to send an image depicting apparent child sex abuse.
The Facebook accounts claimed their intent was to help identify and capture the adult in the image.
The director of the Oneida County Child Advocacy Center is now warning Facebook users that downloading or forwarding images depicting child sex abuse is illegal, regardless of the sender's intent.
"They're actually disseminating child pornography when they send it to someone," Joseph Lisi, director of the center said. "Now the intent of the law is not to arrest somebody who sends that to you to try to identify that, that's not the intent of the law, but it is technically a violation."
Lisi said Facebook users who receive potentially illicit images in their social media inboxes should delete the messages. He said users should also report the problem to the social media platform and local law enforcement.
"They can track through law enforcement and subpoenaing records, IP addresses of who that came from," Lisi said.
However, those with limited understanding of technology may be concerned after receiving an image. Because users cannot control the content of a message sent to them, Lisi said simply opening a message isn't illegal unless the user saves and downloads it.
"That's a lot different than downloading it and saving it, as opposed to opening it and deleting it," Lisi said. "I want to stress on the child pornography issue, we don't charge people for one image. If somebody makes a mistake and they download by accident because they don't know what they're doing, and they have no prior history or images, they're probably not downloading child porn, they probably made a mistake."
While the messages were sent by accounts that appeared to be out-of-state, Lisi said local law enforcement can still help authorities track down abuse.
"If we have cases that we may pick up here on our forensic unit, that may happen in other states or other counties for that matter, we reach out" Lisi said.
A Facebook spokesperson released the following statement after receiving reports of the same image:
"We do not allow the sharing of child exploitative images on Facebook or Messenger -- even to express outrage. Regardless of intention, sharing such imagery is harmful and illegal. When we become aware of such images, we remove them and notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We urge people never to share such content and to report it to local authorities immediately.”