This blog is dedicated to a friend of mine, whose photos have been stolen from their original location and uploaded elsewhere on the internet. Her images appear on a wide array of websites: from advertisements that appear on Facebook; to relentless fake profiles filled with her pictures; to porn sites that collect and archive images of young people. Worst of all, many of these photos were taken when she was fifteen years old.
It is for her that I write this blog, not simply as a member of the international legal community, but as a person seeking to bring awareness to the very serious and potentially dangerous reality that by posting images or videos to the internet you risk losing control over that content; for, if the last fifteen years has taught us anything, it’s that nothing on the internet ever truly goes away.
In a recent study, Britain’s Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) analyzed more than 12,000 sexually explicit images uploaded by young people and found that the great majority of images had been stolen and published to what the researchers call “parasite” websites. These web sites grab photos and videos from anywhere they can get it: lost or stolen cellphones, hacked private accounts on Photobucket, Flickr, or Facebook, or from chat sites and Tumblr. (as reported by Forbes)
- The time spent on the research was 47 working hours, spread over four weeks
- A total of 12,224 images and videos were analyzed and logged
- The content was on 68 discrete websites
- 7,147 were images
- 5,077 were videos
- 5,001 were both an image and a video
- Of the 12,224 images/videos, 10,776 were on parasite websites
- 88% of content was taken from the original source site
- In only 14 instances could analysts not determine whether the site was a parasite website
“One explicit image I took when I was young but I cannot be specific to if I was 15 or 16 because it was long ago, and I never posted it to the internet…It is coming up on the first page of [search engine] also if my name is searched and on [search engine] images for my name which could jeopardize any future career I have or if any family/friends come across it.”
“I came to regret posting photographs of myself naively on the internet and tried to forget about it, but strangers recognized me from the photographs and made lewd remarks at school. I endured so much bullying because of this photograph and the others…I was eventually admitted for severe depression and was treated for a suicide attempt.”
“…the photos were on a phone that was stolen around 2 years ago…the photos were taken when i [sic] was under 17 years old.”
“I’m an individual who was coerced into posing for this site at the age of 16, and have regretted this ever since…My parents would be horrified…I have suffered badly from depression, and every time I begin to feel good and confident about myself …I just remember these pictures and what I did.”
“Please remove this from the internet as soon as possible as one family member has already come across it… I feel like ending my life as I am so ashamed and embaressed [sic] and this has been put up without my concent.” [sic]
 Written with permission.