Social media site leads to police officer’s child porn arrest

Chad Howell (York County Prison)

YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Log into the social media website Pinterest and you’ll find clothing, makeup, crafts and hairstyles.

“You’re looking for interior design ideas, you’re not expecting to run across child pornography,” said Charles Palmer, professor of Interactive Media at Harrisburg University.

West Manchester Township police officer Chad Richard Howell was arrested on charges he had child pornography, and authorities say it was Pinterest that tipped off investigators. The state attorney general’s office was contacted by the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“In this particular case, someone saw it and actually reported it to Pinterest. Pinterest is probably going to get a lot of flack for this, but the door is already open and some of these sites already exist and some of these boards already exist for people to share,” Palmer said.

The 36-year-old officer allegedly uploaded photos to the site. Police confiscated several electronic devices from his Dillsburg home.

And while Pinterest is not a social media site that often attracts bad attention, Palmer says, “We shouldn’t think that way. Any tool that allows anyone to upload something to a space that is completely unprotected, some people are just going to do something that others will find a board. There’s just things that we could not believe people would use the technology for that.”

Palmer says be alert. If you see something, say something. There’s a link on most social media sites. Parents can create safeguards on browsers.

“He’s not the only person. I guarantee you there are hundreds of other people probably using the tool to do the same thing,” Palmer said.

Howell is facing 50 felony counts. West Manchester police declined comment.

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