Police in Virginia have uncovered a ring of local teens using Instagram to share explicit photos of underage girls.
Investigators implicated more than 100 teens in connection with an Instagram account featuring more than 1,000 nude or semi-nude photos and videos of girls between the ages of 14 and 17. Authorities noted that all the images appeared to be consensual, reports ABC News.
According to ABC News affiliate WRIC, investigators began looking into the activity after a mother noticed “suspicious activity” on her daughter’s Instagram account in late March. Once the police discovered what was going on, they worked with Instagram to immediately remove the offending account, per the app's guidelines.
So far no charges have been filed against anyone involved in the case. Those responsible could be charged with the distribution of child pornography, a felony that places those convicted on a sex offender registry for life. However, NBC News writes that it is unlikely police will pursue that action.
“Our goal is not to go out and label 100-plus teenagers as sex offenders,” Maj. Donald Lowe of the Louisa County Sheriff’s Department told NBC. “What we really want to do is bring this issue to parents’ attention.”
The department is still conducting its investigation into the matter. Police from six Virginia counties where the activities were taking place, reportedly confiscated between 25-35 devices from teens who accessed the Instagram photos. Each device will undergo a 10-hour searching process before descriptions of their contents are filed by police, per ABC News. One of the key concerns is ensuring that no one over the age of 18 was involved in the distribution of these pictures.
“It’s one thing when you have two teenagers who are in a relationship share these,” Lowe told NBC. “It’s another when it’s a 50-year-old getting these images.”
The Louisa County Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.