A former YouTube star has been sentenced to ten years in prison in the US after pleading guilty to a charge of receiving indecent images of children.
According to BBC, the YouTuber known as Austin Jones admitted encouraging six underage girls to send him sexually explicit videos in private messages, telling some they needed to “prove” that they were his biggest fans.
Jones had built up a profile based around his covers of famous pop songs. The 26-year-old had 500,000 subscribers on YouTube and 225,000 on Twitter. Both accounts have now been deleted. YouTube blocked Jones’ channel from carrying advertising following his arrest in 2017 but was criticized for being slow to remove it completely.
Jones, from Illinois, had also admitted to using Facebook on around 30 other occasions to entice underage girls to send him explicit photos and videos. He told some of his victims that the videos were part of a modeling opportunity and others that he would help them to boost their Instagram accounts.
“Production and receipt of child pornography are extraordinarily serious offenses that threaten the safety of our children and communities,” said Assistant US Attorney Katherine Neff Welsh in a statement.
The YouTuber’s case is not unique as in August 2018 a security guard was reportedly arrested by detectives from DCI Kenya for posting disturbing pictures of children on different social media pages. According to the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, William Hanga Mwazombo, wrote derogatory messages to accompany his posts, Citizen TV reported.
The man posted several pictures of his victims on the Kilimani Mums and Dads Facebook page. Mwazombo also claimed that he had sexual relations with a Form Two student after luring her with promises that he would buy her soda.
According to a 2019 article by Forbes, a leading U.K. children’s charity claimed that Instagram has become the leading platform for child grooming in the country. The research was based on freedom of information requests covering an 18-month period to September 2018, during which there were more than 5,000 recorded crimes “of sexual communication with a child,” and “a 200% rise in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children.”
Social media platforms can be used as a communication tool, for research, entertainment, and even employment but it is advent that it has also brought in some negatives such as sexual exploitation of minors as well as cyberbullying.