Social media platform tip leads to former state senator’s arrest

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Former state Senator Michael Folmer (R-Lebanon, Dauphin and York Counties) is now facing charges for allegedly possessing child pornography.

Investigators say they opened the case in March after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a complaint from the social media platform, Tumblr.

Tumblr reported at least one image containing suspected child porn was uploaded at the end of December from Folmer's alleged IP address.

John Shehan, vice president of the Child Exploitation Division of NCMEC, said 1,500 U.S. companies have access to a reporting tool called CyberTipline.

He explained they are required, by law, to report any instances of suspected child pornography.

Companies voluntarily provide whatever information they'd like, whether that be date, time, images or videos.

Shehan said the amount of reports they're receiving is exponentially increasing.

“That’s happening because the companies are taking voluntary efforts to make sure they’re not hosting child sexual abuse content. They’re using technology and digital tools to voluntarily identify, remove and report when they are aware of those situations," said Shehan.

Shehan said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children serves as a "clearinghouse" of information, taking reports and responding with appropriate action, such as reporting to law enforcement.

He said they're not an investigating agency as they report suspected cases to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force of Pennsylvania that is located within the Delaware County District Attorney's Office.

“We’re going to add value, we’re going to try to assess if a child appears to be in imminent danger, depending on what’s provided. And all of it, no matter what we receive is provided to law enforcement for an independent review and potential investigation," said Shehan.

Shehan said they received 18.4 million reports of child exploitation in 2018, alone.

He said 99 percent of those cases were submitted by U.S. based companies.

That number is also up from approximately 8 million reported instances in 2016 and they've received 55 million reported cases since CyberTipline started in 1998.

Shehan said any individuals can report an instance of child exploitation to CyberTipline and it's not privy to companies, only.

He said they receive weekly reports from people who've had pictures or videos posted of themselves.

“The last thing they want to do, in many cases, is go to their parents and tell them that someone groomed them online to take pictures, they provided them to that individual, and now they’re being blackmailed to take additional photographs. Sometimes these situations sort of unravel. They need help in getting the content off the internet or they need some sort of law enforcement interaction. They’re submitting reports, themselves, sometimes friends are submitting reports on behalf of victims that are out there," said Shehan.

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