HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Law enforcement officials want to warn you about a disturbing video circulating on social media both nationwide and here in Alabama. You may have seen it in your feed, but the frustrating part for investigators is you might have also shared it. This is very important: They want you to stop.
Law enforcement says this particular video depicts a minor performing a sex act on an adult. It is child pornography and shows assault according to officials.
Authorities tell us people are sharing it online with good intentions. The people who share it want to see the person in the video caught and get the child help, according to Tony Garrett with Central Alabama CrimeStoppers. But, he told WHNT News 19 by phone that this is actually doing way more harm than good.
Do Not Share
Sharing that type of post could land you on the wrong side of the law. Downloading it, saving it or sharing it in any way could result in felony charges.
"If you saved it, if you posted it to your page, if you sent it to someone else," Tim Gann, Madison County Chief Trial Attorney explained, "you're disseminating child porn and that's a felony. If you are in possession of it, no matter your good intentions, that is also a felony. So, in this case, it's very disturbing that people feel like it's ok to post something awful happening to a child on social media."
Gann says sharing it also creates another problem for the victim.
"Every time it gets posted, the victim in this case gets re-victimized for more people to see what they have been subjected to. It's an awful thought that people can't understand that that's wrong," he stated. "To have it blasted over social media -- it shocks the conscience, for me. It really does."
"We can not have child pornography going viral," Jay Town told WHNT News 19 by phone.
Working the Case
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, Jay Town, tells us the FBI and federal prosecutors are on the case.
Lieutenant Brooke Walker, Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Commander, confirmed Friday that several agencies are combining resources for a "very active, very aggressive" investigation. She said she is unable to share more details about the case because it involves a minor.
Law enforcement are still looking into the circumstances of who the people in the video are along with how, and by whom, the video was shared. They are looking into any possible ties to Alabama.
Garrett said that despite a post from Colorado Springs Police, they can not confirm whether the adult in the video or the minor have been identified.
"There's no need to repost this video," said Gann. "Law enforcement are doing their jobs. They are investigating. They are doing their best to identify the parties. There is no need for social media to be involved."
What Should You Do If You See It?
Garrett at Central Alabama CrimeStoppers said if you see this video anywhere, report it to your social media platform and law enforcement.
Again, authorities urge you not to share it or the investigation could include you.
Officials could not confirm how much the video has been shared, but they tell us it has been shared so much that it makes the investigation difficult. While all involved say they appreciate that the public is trying to help, they say you don't need to interact with this video at all.
"When something goes viral," Gann said, "investigators have to track all that down. They need to see who's posting what and where it came from. It's an unbelievable task you're asking them to do just by posting. They need to be doing real work and putting people in prison from making these videos. But unfortunately because of the way it's being scattered out, their focus is being separated."
WHNT News 19 has confirmed the video has been brought to news agencies' attention around the nation. We urge you: Please don't send it to us here at WHNT News 19 if you do happen to see it in your feed or in your messages.
Central Alabama CrimeStoppers sent WHNT News 19 this release:
Law enforcement agencies throughout Alabama are conducting an ongoing criminal investigation surrounding the sexual assault of a child and the distribution of a video depicting the assault.
This video has been shared widely on social media. As this investigation proceeds, law enforcement issues a reminder to the public that possession, dissemination or sharing of this video is a criminal act punishable under the Code of Alabama, §13A-12-191, Dissemination or public display of obscene matter containing visual depiction of persons under 17 years of age involved in obscene acts, a Class B felony; and §13A-12-192(b), Possession and possession with intent to disseminate obscene matter containing visual depiction of persons under 17 years of age involved in obscene acts, a Class C felony.
In addition to investigating the circumstances of the assault, investigators are working to determine how and by whom the video was shared. If you receive this video through social media, report it to the social media platform and delete it immediately. Do not share it, as criminal charges may result.
Anyone with information relevant to this investigation is asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 334-215-STOP, or the Alabama Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, 334-353-1224."