Authorities investigating explicit Instagram accounts

(Source: MGN Online)
(Source: MGN Online)

LAFAYETTE, LA - KATC in Lafayette reports that state police are investigating several Instagram accounts over accusations of cyberbullying and possible distribution of child pornography.

The accounts, which are no longer active, began popping up all over the state on Wednesday.

KATC said some of the images posted on the accounts were explicit and, in some cases, tagged other users.

The accounts gained thousands of followers and, whoever created them, threatened to expose an unknown number of teens. One of those teens is Lafayette High's Colette Bernard. She took to another online platform to let the rest of the world know to stop giving these bullies power.

"It's stupid. It's just someone that doesn't have a life and they want to hurt people that do," Bernard said. "Social media has expanded to the point it's dangerous. It's like no one is safe. It's like you take one picture and there's 1,000 of them."

Instagram is aware of the situation and said it is willing to cooperate with the investigation.

One viewer emailed KPLC to say the problem also popped in the Oberlin area.

Parents have filed reports with the Allen Parish Sheriff's Office.

"We are trying to raise awareness about this cyberbullying that is happening to the kids right here," the viewer wrote in an email.

In Acadiana, troopers said they believe the images may have shown up suddenly because students, out of school due to the winter weather, were simply bored.

State police are in the early stages of their investigation, but are working to determine if the images are in fact child pornography.

"Once a photograph is taken, regardless of the nature of that photograph, and it is put on the Internet, or sent from one phone to another, that photo is no longer in that persons control," said Trooper Stephen Hammons.

Hammons said no matter the age of the person participating, there are some serious consequences.

"If a person underage takes an explicit photograph of themselves, or a person underage, or overage, requests an explicit photo, age does not matter, that too is a crime," Hammons said.

If charges or arrests are made, the person responsible could be looking at a fine of up to $50,000 and 5 to 20 years in prison.

"Stupid stuff you're doing right now is going to affect you in the future," Bernard said. "They need to know you're hurting people, and it does make a difference."

Protecting Your Teen

Troopers gave the following advice to help prevent sexting and child pornography:

• First, monitor your child's use of their cell phones, computers and social media accounts.

• Teach your children about the dangers and consequences, like potential criminal charges. And if you know your child, or another child, is a victim in a case like this do not hesitate to call police.