Alarm over Whatsapp ‘paedophile’ witch-hunt after viral video circulated – Sunday World
Gardaí have urged the public to stop participating in a ‘WhatsApp witch-hunt’ – in which innocent members of the public have been wrongly identified and accused of involvement in a paedophile ring.
video identifying innocent members of the public in the so-called ‘ring’ began circulating in a Leinster town earlier this month – following the death by suicide of a local businessman who was under investigation for alleged possession of child pornography.
Sources have confirmed to the Sunday World that the businessman was interviewed by gardaí after his IP (internet protocol) address was flagged as part of a wider probe into the sharing of child-abuse imagery.
It’s understood the businessman was visited by gardaí and a number of items, including his phone and computers, were removed for a forensic examination.
In the days after the businessman was spoken to by gardaí, it is understood he was found deceased at his business premises.
It is believed he had taken his own life.
Shortly after news of the man’s death emerged, a video began circulating on the WhatsApp messenger platform alleging the man had been part of a ‘localised paedophile ring’ and that a number of other individuals in the area were also under investigation.
Shockingly, the names of entirely innocent people were shared in the message, causing devastation to these individuals and their families.
A senior source this week confirmed to the Sunday World that gardaí are aware of the video and the false claims now circulating on the internet.
Among the false claims in circulation is an allegation that the businessman left a letter identifying other parties and another that he was sharing the images on a WhatsApp group with other parties now under investigation by gardaí.
“The information that led to this man being investigated for possession of child pornography stemmed from a wider operation in which his IP address flagged,” the source told the Sunday World.
“A digital IP address was found and that led to his being interviewed as a suspect and the phone being seized.
“But there is now a WhatsApp video going round and the contents of that video are not true.
“Just because he was involved in WhatsApp groups does not mean he was sharing material with members of those groups.
“The investigation into possession of child pornography is isolated to him … it is specially confined to him and his IP coming up as part of the wider investigation.”
Issues relating to the mis-identification of innocent people as suspects on platforms such as WhatsApp is of major concern to gardaí, the source said.
“In incidences such as this, gardaí would make contact with the social media platform concerned but when it comes to WhatsApp, there are huge difficulties where something like this is concerned.
“The material is not being published and cannot simply be removed from a site.
“Instead the material is being shared peer to peer on people’s devices.
“It is a far from ideal situation in instances like this.”
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