herald

Thursday 15 November 2018

'Instagram ignored my paedo warnings', says victim's father

Matthew Horan’s depraved actions were reported to Instagram by one victim’s father
Matthew Horan’s depraved actions were reported to Instagram by one victim’s father

Instagram ignored a man who attempted to report that his young child was being sexually exploited by paedophile Matthew Horan on the social media app.

The father, whose 11-year-old daughter was coerced into sending graphic images to the depraved sex offender, claimed that Instagram did not respond to him when he attempted to notify it of the crimes.

Instagram was one of four online apps used by Horan to sexually exploit his victims, some aged as young as nine, and to produce and distribute thousands of child porn images.

A spokesman for the photo-sharing app said that while it could not confirm or deny the father's account, it had worked closely with gardai investigating Horan.

Instagram previously said it has "zero tolerance for child exploitation".

Questions

Last Friday, Horan was jailed for seven-and-a-half years following a lengthy garda investigation, which uncovered evidence as far back as April 2014.

In a statement, the father of one of Horan's victims said that questions had to be asked over why Instagram did not "get in touch with gardai" to report Horan's crimes.

"As for the autism spectrum defence, I don't accept it, as he was very clever and calculating in how he got his victims to do what he wanted them to do. This is a very manipulative person who knew exactly how to get these children to do what he wanted," he said in a statement to RTE's Liveline programme.

"I would also like to point out that when I contacted Instagram to let them know what this person was doing, they never replied.

"I read that they were doing all they can to help stop this sort of thing.

"So a huge question needs to be asked as to why they did not reply to me, or at least get in touch with gardai to report this. Is there not a law that states you are obliged to?"

He also urged people who are targeting the home of Horan's father to stop, saying: "They are not doing any good - certainly not in our name, as this man has not been found guilty of any crime, and must be going through enough turmoil in his brain, as I am today."

The property was targeted last Monday night, just hours after the extent of Horan's crimes was detailed in court.

Detectives were so concerned that Horan would continue to prey on vulnerable girls after being charged that officers presented a wealth of evidence at his bail hearing to ensure that he was off the streets.

One of Nolan's victims described how she was terrified that the sex offender would "go after" her after finding out where she lived.

"I want to prevent this happening to anyone else," the victim said. "I thought chatting to strangers online was safe. It was like making a new friend. It didn't make me feel good. It made me feel ashamed, alone and mostly scared. I'm still sad, angry and disappointed in myself."

Safety

At today's Cabinet meeting, Communications Minister Denis Naughten will informally raise the establishment of a digital safety officer with powers to force companies to take down offensive material.

Mr Naughten said that he could not comment on the specifics of the Horan case but added that the country "took a collective shiver when details emerged of Matthew Horan's sickening crimes".

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone, who quizzed social media giants at the Oireachtas Children's Committee last month, said that the likes of Instagram were providing the technology that allowed these predators to groom children.

However, Ms Noone said they were not in turn providing an adequate duty of care to their users. "They're facilitating the abuse - in technical terms, their platforms are facilitating the abuse," she said.

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