German police presented a major investigation into the spreading of content which shows sexual violence against children. Many of the suspects are teenagers or young adults who shared the files on social networks.
Following a nationwide investigation into the distribution of child pornography online, Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) announced that the suspects under investigation are adolescents and young adults.
The federal investigation into sexual violence against children identified 21 suspects between the ages of 14 and 26. They are accused of spreading, via social networks, videos of child pornography and rape.
Dr Sabine Vogt, leader of the organized crime department of the BKA, warned Monday against sharing such images online.
"By spreading videos and pictures of child pornography on social networks, the amount of this type of material available on the internet multiplies exponentially," she explained.
"The police will always pursue cases like this," she added. "Young people in particular should be made more aware of this."
Federal police raided residences in eleven German states with the help of local law enforcement officers on October 23. Computers and data storage devices were seized by police as part of the investigation. No arrests were made.
'Emojis and funny texts'
The report also said that images and videos were often spread among young people accompanied by "trivial" messages.
"The content of the recordings were often trivialized and sometimes sent accompanied with funny texts and emojis," said Frankfurt's chief prosecutor, Alexander Badle.
Badle also clarified that the investigation had not uncovered a major pedophile ring, and many of the images had been sourced by so-called "cyber-grooming."
The German federal commissioner for abuse, Johannes Wilhelm-Rörig, called for greater federal investment into "media competence" to counter the trend of young people spreading this content.
"The fact that children and adolescents are increasingly active in this area makes it clear that the responsible use of digital media is being insufficiently communicated," he said on Monday.
The investigation is one of the largest ever undertaken in Germany.
ed/rt (dpa, KNA)