The Unknowing Victims: Revenge Porn, Parasite Porn and Morphed Porn

It was 2am on a Saturday night and unlike my typical weekend of wild partying, I was enjoying a quiet night in. Little did I know that what started off as aimlessly browsing the web, would turn into an even wilder, unexpected three year ordeal that to this day is far from over. That night, my mind turned to something I heard about earlier that day, the Google Image Reverse function, that allows you to upload a picture and find out if and where it is on the Internet. So, out of pure curiosity, I decided to try it for myself. What I discovered made my body ache, like the feeling you get from hearing troubling news, but a million times worse. Dozens upon dozens of porn sites had my face featured on their pages, from xhamster to sex.com and many more.

As I opened up the sites, one at a time, I found galleries of my photos, many had been taken from my Facebook page or my friends’ Facebook pages or from nightclub albums.  My details were listed- name, age, location and what I studied. The comments that were left about me are too explicit and offensive to repeat. “Parasite Porn” is the phrase used to describe the posting of photos stolen from social media websites and repurposed for pornographic purposes.

I called the police that night and I was told to bring screenshots of the sites to the closest police station. Monday morning came and I travelled to Eastwood Police Station with my laptop in hand. There was nothing they could do.  They informed me that once a photo has been posted online anyone can use and do whatever they want with it, even if it meant misrepresenting you on porn sites. I would like to note that none of the photos I had were sexually explicit. I pleaded with the police saying that the lack of consent must make this illegal, but all I could do was to contact the sites myself and request to take them down. I have successfully taken down many sites since, but I am still in the process of removing numerous sites which feature morphed photos of me, that is, photos of me that have been manipulated into a sexually explicit nature, this is an example of “morphed pornography.”

My personal experience is not an isolated one. In a society that is dominated by a vast, under regulated Internet and social media culture, where photo sharing is a commonplace activity, many victims of this sort of cybercrime, predominantly women, find themselves vulnerable and without adequate recourse. Some victims may be able to afford the expenses to remedy the damage, such as lawyers and private investigators. But there is no remedy for the emotional damage to the spirit and dignity of these victims. All too often these crimes are occurring, from the recent celebrity nude photo scandal, where many female A-list celebrities like Jenifer Lawrence had their iCloud accounts hacked and nude photos disclosed, to the very recent incident surrounding 500 Adelaide women who were found to be victims of “revenge porn,” the public sharing of sexually explicit material, often by ex-lovers, for the purposes of humiliation.

It is easy to adopt the view that if you don’t want your photos to end up in the wrong hands, don’t upload them, or if you do upload them you should expect this kind of backlash. This very sentiment was echoed by Sunrise, when in response to the Adelaide revenge porn incident they stated “when will women learn?” not to take such photos.  The comments made by Sunrise sparked outrage when feminist writer Clementine Ford called Sunrise out for “victim-shaming,” when the in fact, these women were merely “victims of crime.”

Repairing the damage done by cybercrime can be very difficult; there are issues of jurisdiction if some websites are outside the Australian domain, not to mention the adverse effect on the victim’s employability and reputation, as she may likely become susceptible to slut-shaming. In my opinion, the most dangerous part of all, is the fact that many victims of crimes such as these, have no idea they are victims until the damage may is irreparable.

Luckily, all is not so grim. Amit Singhal, a senior vice-president of Google has announced that they would remove from their search results, nude or sexually explicit photos that were uploaded without the victim’s consent, although the photos will still appear on the original websites. Whilst Google’s course of action will not solve the issue at hand, it is a huge step in tackling this kind of cybercrime. Numerous states in the US have seen the emergence of revenge porn legislation. Australia is yet to follow suit.

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau Fb: Zac’s Doodles

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