The distribution of indecent images of children through Social Media is a common allegation we represent clients for. People are regularly accused, sometimes falsely, of viewing and distributing indecent images of children on social media platforms. These platforms include Kik, TikTok, Snapchat, and Telegram.

In a freedom of information request made to the Essex Police, the amount of offences committed in a year on social media platforms (including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Telegram, Kik and TikTok amongst others) was 269 offences. Most of these were the offence of taking, making or to distribute indecent photographs and pseudo-photographs of children. Only two were just the offence of possession of an indecent or pseudo-indecent image of a child.

Whilst it is true that Police can have real difficulties in obtaining indecent images from such social media platforms, it is not an impossible task. Police are aware of issues in obtaining evidence from certain social media companies and often work around those limitations. Of course, unavailable images often work in the accused’s favour. It is extremely difficult for the prosecution to prove that indecent images were traded or viewed if they cannot be accessed.

Here we look at three Social Media platforms and the features which make them desirable for those that share indecent images. We look at where some of these features may not be as secure as people think and provide some examples of arrests where the platform was used for distributing indecent images.

If you are under investigation for making or distributing indecent images on social media, or in another way, contact our team of experienced solicitors immediately. Obtaining legal advice at an early stage is crucial.

Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at


Kik Messenger – Indecent Images and Inappropriate communication with a child

Kik Messenger is a mobile application that can be used on both Android and iPhone. It is a cross-platform app that can be used for messaging friends (through direct messages) or group chats. On the app you can exchange messages, photos and videos amongst other content.

Is Kik Anonymous?

Kik Messenger is known for providing user anonymity and privacy. It is possible to remain completely anonymous on this app, as users can communicate without revealing actual names or phone numbers.

When users sign up, they are not required to provide telephone numbers or valid email addresses. You only are required to provide a name and an email address (which could be a fake account).

It is also possible to chat with strangers.


Does Kik Monitor the Content of Messages?

Kik does not track the content of messages or the phone numbers of users. This makes Kik a difficult platform for law enforcement to actively get any information about the person who sent messages.

As the content is not tracked or monitored when messages on Kik are deleted, they are almost irretrievable. Due to these factors, Kik has become a popular platform for those that wish to exploit this.

The police are aware of how popular this platform is with individuals who wish to use the platform for Inappropriate communication with a child, sending of indecent images, and image swapping group chats.


Are Kik Messages Encrypted?

What many users do not realise that the application does not use end-to-end encryption. Kik also logs user IP addresses, which can be used to track an individual’s location through their Internet Service Provider (ISP). All this is used by the police to track down individuals and knock on their door with a warrant in hand to confiscate digital devices and storage devices for analysis.

Due to the lack of encryption on the messages, the company can theoretically read all messages. Their privacy policy states that messages are deleted from the servers when they are delivered to a user’s device. If this is true, then Kik wouldn’t be able to share your messages with the authorities if requested to do so. The period of time a third party could gain access to your messages is quite short.


Police Investigations Involving Snapchat

There are many cases of clients being arrested with charges relating to activity on Kik. Some of these cases are where Kik Messenger staff have alerted police to users who have uploaded indecent images. Whilst others have been from the work of undercover police posing as children, other perpetrators or paedophiles.

  • Jason Langley was convicted at Bristol Magistrates’ Court in 2019, after Kik staff raised concerns to Avon and Somerset Constabulary. Devices were seized, and were found to hold a large number of Category A, B and C indecent images.
  • Jacques Doldersum was arrested after messaging two undercover police officers on Kik that he believed were 12 and 13 year-old girls. After encouraging them to send indecent images, police officers arrested him and seized his devices.
  • Tomas Brews was caught sending category A indecent images on Kik Messenger when he sent an image to an undercover police officer. The lead investigator, DC Gareth Carter, said “We will not just sit and wait for cases but we will deploy undercover officers to catch these predators in the act and then work to bring them to justice.”


Telegram Messenger and Indecent Images

Telegram is a multi-platform messaging device service. It is globally available, works on a freemium basis and provides cross-platform access to cloud-based messaging. It is possible to message other users, create group conversations, call contacts, make video calls and send files. The platform surged in popularity in 2021 when it’s competitor WhatsApp announced it’s plans to start sharing data with parent company Meta (the same company which owns Facebook).

Are Messages Encrypted on Telegram?

It is known for its enhanced security and privacy due to various levels of encryption. Telegram’s unique position is that they are not subject to larger companies (such as Facebook’s control of Whatsapp) and their government policies.

Whilst message encryption may be a desirable feature, standard messages only feature client-to-server encryption. The only end-to-end encryption is provided by Secret Chat messages. End-to-end encryption is what stops third parties (those outside of the conversation) – such as a company, hackers, the government or law enforcement – accessing what has been sent. End-to-end encryption in all messages is a feature of Telegram’s competitor Whatsapp.

This difference in the encryption policies of messages means it can be easy to believe that messages and communications are more private than they truly are. Those accused of making and distributing indecent images, or of having inappropriate communications with a child, may fall foul of believing that their messages are end-to-end encrypted when they are only covered by client-to-server.

As end-to-end encryption means the messages are only accessible on the device the message originated from (and is sent to), it will not protect messages when a device has been confiscated. Withholding PINs or Access Codes to the device can mean legal ramifications (we’ve written an article about this here).

Even with end-to-end encryption, your messages may not be completely secure. Telegram’s encryption algorithm may have flaws, as Searchlight Security CTO and co-founder Dr. Gareth Owenson explains:

“Telegram has a reputation as a secure messaging app but this is largely due to the feature set it offers rather than the strong encryption. Research by Royal Holloway recently found vulnerabilities in the cryptography used by Telegram”.


Self-Destructing Messages and Message Deletion

Self-destructing messages are supported on the platform. These messages are configured to self-destruct after a set period, similar to apps like Snapchat. After the messages destruct, they are irretrievable to anyone and are not stored on a central server.

Telegram also supports the complete deletion of messages. Deleting a message removes the message for anyone in the chat, and since 2019 users can delete other users’ messages too. This means messages and media removed from Telegram can be hard to locate and access.


Anonymous Usernames

The application allows for the use and creation of usernames instead of phone numbers. This allows your account to be used across multiple platforms (such as desktop). It also allows the account to be used across different phones. As such you do not need to share your phone number with someone to add them as a contact in telegram.


Police Investigations Involving Telegram

Even with these features, those using Telegram for indecent images are still caught. Police are aware of Telegram as a platform that could be used for illegal or criminal activity. Operation Challenger officers have targeted organised crime (including the supply of drugs across Manchester and Stockport) on Telegram with ‘Operation Telegram’. Whilst the operation was to primarily tackle Class A and Class B drugs, mobile phones have been seized using warrants. There have been some charged for distributing indecent images linked to Operation Telegram.

Frequently those arrested have shared content with people who report them to the police.

  • Tan Yeow Chong was jailed after sharing indecent images on a Telegram chat group associated with an adult sex forum. Tan was one of four people charged when another user of the group filed a police report stating that members had shared explicit images of girls.
  • Michael Wyre was arrested having shared indecent images of children between the ages of 7-11 on Telegram to men he met on Grindr. Police had received intelligence that an IP address linked to Wyre had distributed an indecent image. This was linked to Operation Telegram as images were shared in conversations with people involved in the operation.
  • Tahmid Qureshi collected more than 2,000 indecent images. He obtained many of these images through Kik and Telegram, downloading them onto a phone then transferring them onto a memory card. He confessed that he had shared images with a few individuals that he did not know personally. The Police acted on ‘information’ provided to them to make the arrest.


Snapchat and Indecent Images

Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app which lets users send and receive pictures and videos (called Snaps). The main difference between Snapchat and other messaging apps is that photos and videos are programmed to disappear after they are viewed.

Deleting Snapchat Messages and Time-Limited Viewing of Messages and Images

Whilst Snapchat is designed to allow messages to disappear after viewing (including videos and images), you need to set what the time limit is on a ‘Snap’. Message history may remain if this feature hasn’t been set up correctly.

It is possible that the viewer of the image could take a screenshot of the message/snap using their phone or a third-party screen-capture app. If an individual takes a screen-capture using their phone, the sender is notified that the image was captured by screenshot. Third-party capture or recording apps do not trigger a notification. Therefore, the feature provides a false sense of security that can be easily worked around if someone wishes to collect evidence of your messages.


Can Police Access Deleted Snapchat Messages and Images?

Whilst the message or image becomes inaccessible to a user, it shouldn’t be assumed that an image is irretrievable to digital forensic teams. Forensic students discovered that the app’s code hides the images in the digital device (i.e. phone) rather than deleting entirely. Files are modified with a “.NOMEDIA” extension which makes access to the file difficult, but not impossible.

Snaps/messages can be saved from deletion by holding on it in the chat history. The snap will then appear in the chat as chat media, and won’t be deleted. This feature must be turned on in the chat settings in each conversation to allow saving of messages.


Can a user be identified through their Snapchat Display Name?

There is a difference between a user’s Username and the Display name. Law enforcement must provide the username to request disclosure of account records.

  • A Snapchat Username is a unique identifier and it cannot be changed by a user.
  • A Snapchat Display name can be created and changed by the user to change the name to how the user will appear within the app. A user can also change the display name of a friend to have that friend appear differently within the app for them (i.e. a nickname).

Occasionally, if Snapchat are provided an email address or phone number then they may be able to locate the Snapchat account if the information was provided by the user.

Snapchat are unable to locate Snapchat accounts based on display name, date of birth, street address, social security number, content of snaps, or other identifiers. This information can be found in Snapchat’s Law Enforcement Guide.


Are Snapchat Messages Stored?

Snapchat’s privacy policy states that “deleting is our default”. Messages are stored on their servers, but are deleted after they’ve been opened by all recipients or have expired. Snapchat’s deletion policies are different depending on the content:

  • Unopened one-on-one snaps are deleted after 31 days.
  • Viewed one-on-one messages are set to delete after 24 hours, though can be set to delete straight after.
  • Unopened group chat snaps are deleted after 7 days.
  • Snaps uploaded to a story are removed after 24 hours.

You can delete a message by holding on it, and then tapping delete. When it is deleted, Snapchat will set it to delete from their servers. They will attempt to remove the message from other users in the chat too.

Whilst stored on the servers, messages are encrypted. However Snapchat has the encryption key

Police Investigations Involving Snapchat

The NSPCC have reported that 37 per cent of indecent images reported to police were on Snapchat (between 2019 and 2020). Snapchat has received a reputation for not reporting an adequate volume of child sexual abuse material to the police. The company states that they report every instance of reported child sexual abuse material to the NCMEC’s CyberTipline.

Recently, Priti Patel has called on tech companies to actively work to counter online child sexual exploitation. She said:

“Silicon Valley giants must lead by example and take immediate steps to take this content down and stop predatory abusers using their platforms to prey on vulnerable children”

Many of the arrests of people using Snapchat to send and receive indecent images come from reports made of their behaviour, or by sharing images with undercover police officers.

  • Philip Coley was caught with screenshots of indecent images taken from snapchat.
  • A 16-year-old boy was arrested for circulating an indecent pseudo-photograph of a child on Snapchat.
  • Louis Howard falsely claimed he was 15 on Snapchat to solicit indecent images from children. He sent naked pictures of himself to a “12-year-old girl” who was an undercover police officer.


Forensic Analysis of Digital Devices and Storage Devices

In all these cases, Police will seize digital devices and storage devices for forensic analysis. Historically, there has been a long waiting list for devices to be processed and analysed. This can cause long waits in investigations and it can be a frustrating and stressful time for someone suspected of committing these offences.


Formal Police Interview for Indecent Images

If the Police receive information that leads them to believe a certain individual has been in possession or distributed indecent images they will wish to interview that individual. We strongly recommend that you seek legal advice and representation before this interview with a specialist solicitor.

Your solicitor should assist and advise you during the interview, as what you say and do not say is vitally important. Whatever you do or do not say will affect the way in which you will be dealt with and will influence the outcome.

Offences involving indecent images are extremely serious and can result in custodial sentences and notification requirements on the sexual offenders register. Early advice from a specialist may prevent these matters being prosecuted and enable an individual to achieve the best outcome possible.

Reeds Solicitors is an award winning and leading top-tier criminal defence firm. For legal advice and representation, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at