herald

Tuesday 22 May 2018

Social media giant defends safeguards after horror case

Paedophile Matthew Horan used Snapchat, Instagram and Skype to send sick messages
Paedophile Matthew Horan used Snapchat, Instagram and Skype to send sick messages

Instagram - one of the social media apps used by a Dublin paedophile to share pornographic images of and sexually exploit children - has defended its safety measures and said it has a "zero tolerance for child exploitation".

This week, a court heard how depraved Matthew Horan (26) sent and received child porn images of at least 15 children both in Ireland and abroad.

Horan's home in St John's Crescent, Clondalkin, was searched on a number of occasions, with thousands of child porn images recovered, some of which involved babies.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Horan used Skype, Snapchat, Instagram and Kik, an anonymous instant messaging application, to send and receive child porn images from six identified child users in Ireland and nine unknown users around the world.

Removed

Speaking about its zero tolerance policy for child exploitation, a spokesperson for Instagram said: "When detected, our teams ensure that any offending content is immediately removed and reported to the relevant authorities.

"We also work closely with An Garda Siochana, in particular the Cybercrime Unit.

"In addition, we work with safety experts to develop powerful tools to combat this kind of activity and we have a global team responding around the clock to reports from our community."

Kik, an anonymous messaging app also used by Horan, did not respond to questions when asked what the company was doing to prevent child exploitation and the distribution of child pornography on its app.

It comes as it has emerged that the investigation into the depraved paedophile will now shift to another suspected sex offender who expressed sexual fantasies about his own child.

The garda probe into Horan discovered dozens of conversations on instant messaging apps, opening with the question: "Yo, wanna see some child porn?" before sending graphic images.

Forensic experts recovered a Skype conversation between Horan and another man in which the two shared fantasies about the unidentified man's nine-year-old daughter.

Horan told the man: "We're just two sick f**ks who are totally cool with being sick f**ks".

This man is now under investigation by specialist officers, and is understood to be among several individuals uncovered during the probe into Horan.

On Monday, Horan pleaded guilty to a count each of sexually exploiting two girls within the state on dates between April 1 and November 23, 2014.

Horan pleaded guilty to two more counts of sexually exploiting a child and one count of distributing child porn on dates in 2015. He further pleaded guilty to possessing child porn at his address on July 11, 2015.

He pleaded guilty to three further counts of sexually exploiting female children through Snapchat and Instagram in the State on dates between May 21, 2015, and July 7, 2016.

He further pleaded guilty to possessing child porn on a Sony mobile phone at his home on July 7, 2016. He has no previous convictions. A forensic examination of Horan's computer uncovered recorded Skype calls between him and two nine-year-old-girls, both individually and together. The recordings included footage of these girls engaging in graphic sexual acts. Horan also engaged in sexually explicit text conversations with the girls, during which there would be an exchange of photos.

Judge Martin Nolan adjourned the case to Friday and said he intends to sentence Horan then.

Detective Garda David Connolly told the court, that the parents of the then nine-year-old girls from the Skype recordings expressed their "absolute shock" when they found out about the exchanges with Horan.

Graphic

They said they "felt sick to the pit of our stomachs" and felt they failed to protect their daughters from the predator.

Det Gda Connolly told Mr Staines that US authorities contacted gardai about a Gmail account being used to share child porn. Investigators eventually tracked the Gmail account to Horan and gardai searched his address.

They seized a number of devices and got him to disclose all of the passwords to his online applications.

Expert gardai discovered thousands of images and videos of child porn. Some of these involved young babies.

Horan also engaged in graphic text exchanges with the child users in which he would describe violent sexual acts.

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