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A 28-year-old Fresno man pleaded guilty to production of child pornography Friday morning in federal court, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Jacob Blanco pleaded guilty to five counts of child pornography production, as well as one count of receipt of child pornography, before U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Drozd.

Sentencing is set for Oct. 9, and Blanco faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.

According to admissions made in connection with his guilty plea, Blanco’s activities came to light in March 2017, when the parents of a 6-year-old discovered their child had created sexually explicit images at the request of another user on Musical.ly, which is now TikTok. An investigation identified the user as Blanco.

Blanco Confesses to Exploiting Children

A search of the Blanco’s digital media revealed that he had persuaded and coerced multiple children to produce sexually explicit material. Blanco accomplished this by pretending to be a modeling agent or to be a minor. He also used Snapchat and Kik to reach out to victims.

In an interview with law enforcement, Blanco said that he communicated with least 50 minors — an admission confirmed by his digital media.

Homeland Security Investigations in Fresno conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Fresno County Sherriff’s Office and the Fresno County Police Department.

Trial Attorney Nadia C. Prinz of DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David L. Gappa of the Eastern District of California prosecuted the case.

Privacy Groups Raise Concerns About TikTok

Privacy watchdogs say the TikTok video app is violating a children’s privacy law and putting kids at risk.

Susan McLean, a former police officer who is now a cyber safety specialist, also says that “TikTok is not a safe app and there are many concerns, not the least bullying and grooming by predators.”

A coalition of 20 groups, including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, filed a complaint Thursday with the Federal Trade Commission saying that TikTok is collecting personal information of kids under 13 without their parents’ consent.

TikTok Says App Is Safe

In an emailed statement to the Associated Press, TikTok said it takes privacy seriously and is committed to ensuring the app is a safe and entertaining community for users.

TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, has exploded in popularity with young people thanks to its goofy, lighthearted feel and ease of use. At the same time, it’s drawn scrutiny from U.S. officials concerned about national-security risks due to its Chinese ownership and its popularity with kids.

TikTok paid a $5.7 million fine to the FTC in 2019 for collecting personal information from kids under 13, a violation of the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. It revamped its app with a restricted mode for younger users.

(Associated Press contributed to this article.)

 

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