Parents and teens in Kershaw County are concerned about something that's happening online. Throughout the country, Purge Pages are popping up on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The pages are based off the plot of movies, "The Purge" and "The Purge: Anarchy," where everything is legal for 12 hours. Authorities say teens don't realize the danger they are putting themselves in when they take part in these online groups.
It doesn't take long to find something on the Internet.
"I found out about it on Instagram," said a Kershaw County teenager who did not want to be identified. "I was just scrolling through my newsfeed and I saw everybody talking about this one account."
The teen wasn't prepared for what he saw next.
"It was mostly nude pictures and girls in bras. There were even a couple of guys on there," said the teen.
The Kershaw County Sheriff's Office is investigating the online posts.
"It's a new phenomenon I guess, called Purge," said Sheriff Jim Matthews. "We've heard some rumblings about this for a couple of weeks. Most recently, a parent has come to our office and spoke to one of my investigators."
Matthews says it's a bigger issue than the teenagers involved seem to realize.
"If the girl is underage, it's considered child porn. If a girl takes a picture of herself and sends it to everybody, she is disseminating child pornography," said Matthews.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson says internet crimes happen too often. The state has an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force administered through Wilson's office.
"Every month we have additional sheriff's departments and police departments joining our task force and dedicating men and women as resources," said Wilson. "Basically to police the Internet, which is frankly the new Wild Wild West."
The Kershaw County Sheriff's Office is talking with investigators in Florida and Georgia, because there have been the same issues in those states.
"It's difficult to identify the person who is doing it. Sometimes we know or think we know who did it, but proving it in a court of law is a totally different situation," explained Matthews.
It's not just naked pictures on the pages, people also leave comments.
"Bashing all of the girls that are on there," described the Kershaw County teenager. "Some people were even telling girls to kill themselves. It was just awful."
"The comments associated with these pictures are disgusting," added Matthews. "They are perverted, they are hardcore pornographic type comments that will be associated with the pictures."
Sheriff Matthews urges parents to pay attention to what their teenagers are doing online. He says it's a crime that authorities can't put an end to alone.
"Have a sit down, heart-to-heart with their teenage daughters and sons. Remind the girls, don't take pictures of yourself, don't let somebody take a picture of you, and don't send it to your boyfriend. Tell their sons, if you get one, don't disseminate it," said Matthews.
The Kershaw County teenager who talked with WIS says he has stopped looking at the pages.
"I don't know how anybody in their right mind could do that to somebody," said the teen. "It needs to stop. I mean, it's just wrong."
Many of the Kershaw County and Midlands Purge Pages have been removed from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The Kershaw County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate.
Last fall, someone created a Facebook page that contained topless photographs of a Greenville area teenager. The girl's name was posted with the pictures, and her father told local law enforcement about the page.
For legal reasons, it was impossible to prosecute the case, but the state Attorney General's Office was able to have the page closed for violating Facebook policy.
For information on internet safety, visit http://www.scag.gov/internet-crimes-against-children/a-guide-to-internet-safety
If you have been a victim and need someone to talk with, there are several hotlines available, including one through Mental Health America of Greenville County http://www.mhagc.org/teenline.php
Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.
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