SALT LAKE CITY — Pinterest is a website where people typically share recipes, craft and decorating ideas, and travel tips.
What state investigators never expected was that it would also be a place where they would find child pornography.
"We were incredibly surprised," said Utah Internet Crimes Against Children task force field commander Patty Reed. "We all thought Pinterest was a place to go post your recipes or their decorating ideas. So we were incredibly surprised to find out people were also using it to pin child pornography and share child pornography."
In the past five months, the ICAC team has opened active investigations into 12 separate cases of people posting child pornography on Pinterest boards. As of Thursday, charges were still pending in all those cases.
"People have actually posted on Pinterest — on non-password protected pages — actual images that are known child pornography ... and put that out there saying, 'Hey, this is what my hobby is,'" said ICAC head Ken Wallentine. "Essentially, it's fishing for other images: 'I'll show you mine if you show me yours, and by the way, here's mine right up front.'"
When Wallentine initially heard reports about child porn being posted on Pinterest, he didn't believe it. There are few things that still surprise him after many years in law enforcement, he said. Learning that such reports were true left him a bit dumbfounded.
"Who would do that? Everybody knows there's no privacy on Pinterest. Anything you post, everyone will see it. Michelle Obama has a Pinterest page. I mean, everything Michelle Obama puts on Pinterest I get to see," he said. "It's just so incredibly brazen. When you see that type of brazen behavior coupled with depravity, it tells you a couple of things. There's some real evil at work there, and/or an underlying addiction, an underlying sickness, an underlying wickedness that seems to knock all of the behaviors that would prevent you and I from doing something so terrible.
"There are people willing to take what I think are crazy risks. My sense is you have to be fairly addicted, fairly controlled by your compulsion, to engage in child pornography behaviors," Wallentine said.
He believes the people who pinned child pornography on their Pinterest walls were being careless. Reed thinks maybe they were trying to be sneaky.
"I think they're trying to hide in plain sight, thinking they'll go undetected. Because who thinks to look on Pinterest for child pornography?" Reed said.
Federal law requires Pinterest to police itself. Reed said Pinterest employees were taking an "honorable pro-active" approach to monitoring the activity of others, and all of the cases currently being investigated by Utah authorities were brought to their attention by Pinterest officials.
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