ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - North Carolina police have launched a statewide investigation into naked photos of teenage girls spreading rampantly through Instagram and Facebook accounts, and one 17-year-old high school student has been arrested and charged with cyber-bullying, reports CBS Charlotte.
Landis police, the State Bureau of Investigation and law enforcement across North Carolina have issued a warrant to Facebook - which owns the photo-sharing application Instagram - ordering that the social media company provide records to identify account holders distributing "inappropriate" nude photos of area high school girls as young as 14 and 15 years old, according to the station.
Police began investigating the lewd Instagram accounts after a series of complaints from parents across the state who noticed the naked images on several accounts that had already amassed thousands of followers. Investigators are seeking felony charges for child pornography and sexual exploitation of a minor against the responsible account holders, WSOC-TV reports.
A student at West Rowan High School in Mt. Ulla was arrested and suspended from school earlier this week for posting a fully nude photo of a local 15-year-old high school student on an Instagram account called, "Thesehoes01," the Associated Press reported. Investigators said they were able to trace the lewd photo back to 17-year-old Juan Bautista of Woodleaf, who was arrested and charged with cyber-bullying for operating the account.
"The victim's photo had originally been sent to her boyfriend in confidence, but leaked to this boy, which then made it available on Instagram," officials said. "(Bautista) was open and honest about his actions and accepts responsibility."
The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) announced that it is in the midst of investigating tips about similar nude photos of girls identified as students from at least six high schools in Wake County alone. Police in at least ten other counties - including Chatham, Johnston, Edgecombe, Craven, Randolph and Surry - are already investigating 40 similar accounts distributing naked photos of local teenagers, reports CBS Charlotte.
Police have said Facebook has been "uncooperative" in responding to the issued warrants for account holder information, ABC News first reported.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said last week that the inappropriate photos of high school students being distributed on social media is a problem that could get much worse as publicity spreads. Cooper is urging parents to talk to their children about appropriate Internet behavior to prevent future leaks.
"We're getting more and more tips from people who are calling the SBI, calling local law enforcement, said Cooper. "We're getting tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I fear this is not the end of it...That's why we're taking this seriously, it is unusual to have this many in one area."