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Cloquet police investigate 'sexting' case

Detective Derek Randall of the Cloquet Police Department was recently called in to assist in a case of online nudity that turned out to be a case of internet "sexting" between two area teens.

Detective Derek Randall of the Cloquet Police Department was recently called in to assist in a case of online nudity that turned out to be a case of internet "sexting" between two area teens.

According to Randall, a web page provider that enables subscribers to share photos, messages and video clips uncovered activity on their site that involved a young female exposing herself online. The provider reported the information to the Cybertip Hotline of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

That organization, in turn, was able to track the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of the computers or devices from which the communications originated and forwarded the information to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (MN ICAC). The parties involved in the communications in question were determined to be a juvenile girl from Hermantown and a juvenile boy from Cloquet, both 16 years old.

As an affiliate of the MN ICAC, the Cloquet Police Department assigned Randall to investigate whether the girl had been enticed in any way to send the photos. Randall interviewed her and her mother, both of whom said they had no knowledge of the communications. When Randall provided the details that had been garnered off the Internet, as well as some of the images that had been exchanged between the girl and the juvenile male, he said she was at first surprised and then confessed that she and the juvenile boy had sent nude or explicit photos and videos to one another.

Randall said he then confronted them about their actions regarding the possible criminal and social consequences of their behavior.

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He said since the photos involved juveniles, technically they could be interpreted as child pornography (a felony) and prosecuted as such.

"Most young kids who do this sort of thing for the excitement factor don't realize that what they send is not as anonymous as they think it is," said Randall. "Then they are surprised by the knock at the door...."

Though Randall added it is unlikely that felony charges would be filed in a case such as this one, law enforcement officials want to take a proactive stance in stressing how important it is for young people to understand the implications of their actions when using computers, cells phones or instant messaging.

"Once you put something like that [nude or explicit photos or videos] out there," said Randall, "there is no way to recall it. We've had calls from college kids who have shared explicit photos with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Then, following an argument or a breakup, they find that their photos have been distributed all over the Internet, even after they thought their videos or images had been removed."

Randall said it doesn't take much for "techie" people - or predators, for that matter - to be able to unearth those sorts of photos after they have been sent, even if they were intended for only one person.

"Someone with a little tech savvy is able to obtain identity information of the people they're communicating with online," explained Randall, "including IP addresses, GPS information from photos, etc. That's how predators locate (and sometimes harm) these people."

Randall said authorities are getting more and more of these types of complaints (regarding the unauthorized distribution of explicit photos), involving younger and younger age groups.

He urged parents to monitor their children's use of computers, cell phones and even gaming systems as closely as possible to make certain they aren't sending or receiving inappropriate photos or communications. He also encouraged them to talk with their children about the widespread implications of such actions.

Related Topics: CLOQUETCRIME
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