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Instagram account designed to groom Maidstone schoolgirls 'exposed teenagers to risk'

An Instagram account launched to snare and groom young schoolgirls was allowed to remain active despite concerns raised over the risks it posed to potential victims.

Charlotte Giles, 26, came across the account named s_x.in.maidstone.u16s and reported it to the social media giants immediately.

The construction worker was left frustrated when Instagram said none of its terms were violated and the account was left open to followers.

The account suspected of targeting young girls in Maidstone has since been removed (5681209)
The account suspected of targeting young girls in Maidstone has since been removed (5681209)

Miss Giles, from Higham, said: "I came across one account which was called horny4u and reported that one straight away and it was closed down.

"Then I came across this account in Maidstone which is quite local to me.

"Anyone with a child would be very cautious and worried that their daughter follows this account. I don't have children but it is still really shocking.

"I reported the account to Instagram and I got an automated response to say there had been no violation of the conditions."

Miss Giles said she would not have been able to rest easy until something had been done about the account.

"Anyone with a child would be very cautious and worried that their daughter follows this account..." - Charlotte Giles

She said: "I couldn't have this on my conscience so I reported it to Kent Police and it has been passed onto a team who specialises with these social media accounts.

"In the end the account got taken down."

A petition has since been launched to introduce better means of controlling potentially harmful social media accounts and almost 80 people have already signed it.

"There were 35 girls following that account so that is 35 girls at risk," Miss Giles added.

"I needed to do something. My concern is that the reporting tools used don't feel like they are specific enough if you feel someone is in immediate danger.

"The petition is to make the reporting more official and more effective.

The Instgram account being investigated by Kent Police had 35 followers
The Instgram account being investigated by Kent Police had 35 followers

"I know they have to follow standards and abide by laws, but after finding that account I didn't think it was quick enough."

A spokesman for Kent Police said: "We were contacted due to concern about an Instagram account reported to be aimed at girls aged under 16.

"Officers from the Paedophile Online Investigation Team are carrying out enquiries to identify who created the account, which has since been deleted."

Detective Sergeant Mikaela Leahy said: "Anyone concerned about social media posts of this nature is encouraged to report it to us online at www.kent.police.uk/report or by calling 101. You can also report it to the relevant social media network.

"Parents are advised to keep an open dialogue with their children about their social media activity, and to make use of parental locks and privacy settings to ensure they are not exposed to any online risks.

"There were 35 girls following that account so that is 35 girls at risk..." - Charlotte Giles

"Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram also have age restrictions to help protect young people.

"Further information is available on the Kent Police website, which includes links to a number of support services including the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), Get Safe Online and more."

To sign the petition visit petition.parliament.uk/petitions/232948

A Instagram spokesman said: "Child exploitation is not allowed anywhere on Instagram and we removed the account @S_X.in.maidstone.u16's within 24 hours of it first being reported to us.

"We use powerful technology to fight inappropriate content and accounts on Instagram, and work with the police and CEOP to help protect young people."

Instagram states it fosters a "positive, inclusive and safe environment", forbidding users from doing "anything unlawful, misleading, or fraudulent or for an illegal or unauthorised purpose."

Its terms of use read: "We develop and use tools and offer resources to our community members that help to make their experiences positive and inclusive, including when we think they might need help. We also have teams and systems that work to combat abuse and violations of our terms and policies, as well as harmful and deceptive behaviour.

"We use all the information we have - including your information - to try to keep our platform secure. We also may share information about misuse or harmful content with other Facebook Companies or law enforcement."

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