More than 2,000 sexual images of underage girls and women have been shared by teen boys and young men, on an Australian website. The site allows users to barter the illegal images, announce the “wins” of their hunting sprees and identify the subjects by attaching full names, faces, schools, home addresses, and phone numbers.
According to News.com, the nonconsensual pornography ring has targeted more than 70 Australian schools since it began operating in December 2015.
The men and boys reportedly use the site to nominate the specific high school or region they’re interested in, along with full names of the girls they’re “hunting.”
News.com reports that the site’s “wanted” lists include hundreds of names, including the names of sisters and entire high school groups of friends.
Once a name’s on the list, group members post personally identifying information (PII) about the intended victim, such as her full name, face, school, home address, and phone number, along with comments such as “Go get her boys!”
The nude photos, called “wins,” are uploaded or offered in trades.
In some cases, the victims are so eagerly sought after that bounties are attached to a photo theft. News.com, which didn’t state the name of the site (not that we would print it anyway!), mentions one case in which a user offered to trade up to 300 images of other girls in exchange for a single nude photo of his intended victim.
They don’t give up easily, these people whose alleged actions could lead to a prison sentence of up to 15 years. One user has reportedly been trying to get images of a particular target for 5 years.
The comments are, well, what you’d expect from a group of teenage boys and men who act like them and who all assume the internet has cloaked them in anonymity.
As for where they get the photos, one comment stands out:
I ripped these from a computer I was asked to fix a few years ago.
Many students and women are unaware that their photos have been published on the site. Some victims, or friends of victims, have posted on the site themselves, asking the members to remove images.
They’re laughed at, ignored, or sometimes turned into targets themselves, even when they tell the site’s members that their victims are suicidal.
That’s what you get for acting like a “slut,” one young woman was told. Now your photos “belong to the internet.”
Sharna Bremner, from End Rape On Campus, told News.com that this isn’t happening because the internet has somehow run fresh out of consensual porn. The boys and men aren’t after sexual titillation unless it’s laced with a good dose of power over their victims:
They are hunting women and girls who live in their area and sorting them according to geography. It’s the idea of proximity and accessibility that is considered arousing.
The thrill is not just that they might see the girl who sits next to them in maths class, it’s also that they can put in an order for the girl from maths class. What these boys are really getting off on is the sense of power they feel over these girls, and the idea that they can own and obtain them like objects.
The site is hosted overseas, which makes things much more difficult, according to Australian Federal Police (AFP).
After the News.com story was published, the AFP put out a statement saying that it’s liaising with “domestic and international law enforcement partners and relevant government agencies to evaluate this matter and to determine appropriate courses of action.”
From the statement:
The Australian Federal Police is aware of the existence of a website which encourages users to upload images of a sexual nature. A number of these images allegedly depict nonconsenting and/or underage women.
The statement said that even if the AFP can’t get its hands on the site to shut it down, it can still go after and prosecute the site’s Australian members who share images.
It is important to note that creating, accessing or distributing child pornography is a serious offence, even if you are a child yourself.
Child pornography offences have a maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment.
New South Wales (NSW) Police also issued a statement, reminding the site’s users that they’re breaking the law by sharing explicit photographs, even if they themselves are underage:
They should be aware they could be arrested and charged and, if convicted, will have a criminal record.
The NSW Police’s Sex Crimes Squad’s Child Exploitation Internet Unit’s detectives are reaching out to law enforcement in other Australian states about the matter, as well as working with the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, the NSW Department of Education, the Association of Independent Schools of NSW and Catholic Schools NSW.
Police are urging anyone who thinks their photo was posted on the site to report it to police.
In Australia, call 1800 RESPECT or Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800.
To share further information on this case or similar cases, call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000 or the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.
In the US, call the free, confidential National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), or access the 24-7 help online by visiting Online Hotline.
In the UK, you can report criminal content through the Internet Watch Foundation’s website.