Around Acadiana

Jan 30, 2014 11:33 PM by Erin Steuber

State Police Investigating Explicit Instagram Accounts

"Social media has expanded to the point it's dangerous," said Lafayette High School student Colette Bernard. "It's like no one is safe. It's like you take one picture and there's 1,000 of them."

We're hearing from one teen targeted by several explicit Instagram accounts. State Police are now investigating several Instagram accounts in Acadiana over accusations of cyberbullying, and possible distribution of child pornography. Troopers believe the images may have shown up suddenly because students were simply bored, and out of school. Our phones have been ringing since Wednesday night, viewers concerned about the explicit images showing up on Instagram. The images posted were explicit and, in some cases, tagged other users. But one victim is taking a stand.

Several suspicious accounts popped up Wednesday all over the state. The accounts gained thousands of followers and, whoever created them, threatened to expose an unknown number of teens. One of those teens is Colette Bernard. She took to another online platform to let the rest of the world know to stop giving these bullies power.

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

Bernard is no stranger to being bullied. Her family moved away from their home town just so she could escape it.

"Suicide is real and it will happen. This is coming from someone who had to have special treatment because I could not control myself over being bullied so much. It does happen. I've tried and it's something no human should have to go through," said Bernard.

She's hoping her video will make the creators of the accounts stop and think about how it effects the victims.

"Know that it gets better. Those friends that said that to you aren't your friends, they've never been your friends. The ones that stay by your side, keep them there.The ones that left weren't there for you in the first place," said Bernard.

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.

State Police say, 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," said Hammons.

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.

"It's stupid. It's just someone that doesn't have a life and they want to hurt people that do," said Bernard.

As for Instagram, the company is aware of the situation and says the accounts in question are no longer active. The company stands by its security features, and is willing to cooperate with the investigation.

Troopers have some advice to help prevent sexting and child pornography:

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

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