US Imprisons Man Who Exploited Children Via Social Media

A sexual predator who used social media apps to victimize minors has been sent to prison in the United States.

Jacob Blanco, of Fresno, California, used several ruses to manipulate children as young as six years old into producing sexually explicit material and then sharing it with him.

Using apps including Musical.ly (now TikTok), Kik and Snapchat, the 29-year-old offender posed as a child modeling agent or pretended to be a minor himself to deceive his victims.

Police became aware of Blanco’s illegal activity in March 2017 after being contacted by the parents of a six-year-old child. The parents alerted authorities after discovering that their child had communicated with another user on Musical.ly and had created sexually explicit images at that user’s request. 

An investigation into the incident led law enforcement to Blanco, and a search warrant was obtained to search his residence and digital devices. That search revealed that Blanco had successfully persuaded and coerced multiple minors to create sexually explicit material.

In May 2020, Blanco pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and receipt and distribution of material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. 

“Blanco admitted, as part of his plea agreement, that he communicated with at least 50 minors and asked for and received sexually explicit images from many of them,” said the Department of Justice’s Office of Public Affairs in a statement released October 8. 

On Friday, Blanco was sentenced to 55 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release. 

Acting US Attorney Phillip Talbert for the Eastern District of California said: “The fact that the defendant used social media to sexually exploit the victims serves as a reminder that the internet can be a dangerous place, especially for children.”

Blanco’s sentencing comes a month after the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) urged TikTok to do more to protect minors using its platform. 

Lina Nealon, director of corporate and strategic initiatives at NCOSE, said: “Under an account we created as a 13-year-old, we were easily able to find videos promoting OnlyFans, as well as other pornography and prostitution sites, despite the fact that this type of material is against TikTok’s Community Guidelines.”

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?