Use of women’s Facebook pictures on porn site investigated

Some claim images digitally altered to impose their faces on those of naked women

Several women recently discovered their own pictures allegedly downloaded from their Facebook pages had been posted on a website that was encouraging violent and pornographic comments.

Several women recently discovered their own pictures allegedly downloaded from their Facebook pages had been posted on a website that was encouraging violent and pornographic comments.

 

Gardaí investigating complaints by a number of women in Cork that their photographs have been copied from social media and posted on a pornographic website are examining the law to see if any offence has been committed.

Several women recently discovered that their own pictures allegedly downloaded from their Facebook pages, and in some cases years old, have been posted on a website that was encouraging violent and pornographic comments.

Some claimed their images - in many cases downloaded from private online profiles - had been digitally altered to impose their faces on those of naked women.

Women who contacted Cork’s 96FM Opinion Line programme on Thursday said they were horrified to discover their images had been used on the website.

A woman named Niamh said she had been listed as “number 2” on a list of women on the site and had found 39 of her Facebook pictures, dating back to 2012 when she was aged 19.

There were up to 4,000 views for every image.

She said she had reported the matter to gardaí, who said it could be the work of someone outside the country, but she believed it could be somebody from Cork. “I’m afraid in case I know this person well.”

Registration unavailable

The registration details of the person behind the US-based website are blocked and unavailable.

Lauren Edwards (24), a model from Carrigaline, told The Irish Times she was very upset to discover two pages of her own Facebook images on the site after she was alerted to it on Wednesday.

The comments on her pictures were violent and “absolutely vile”, she said.

A senior Garda source said detectives were currently trying to establish whether a criminal act had taken place.

“Clearly what has happened here is very upsetting and very embarrassing for the girls and it should not have happened that pictures that they posted in good faith on their Facebook pages should end up being put on a sleazy website like this,” said the source.

“But we have to operate under the legislation and we have to assess whether or not this action involved criminality. It’s clearly a breach of their privacy, but that’s a civil matter under the law and we have to establish a clear case that a criminal offence was committed.”

Fake porn site

He said the complaints differed from a case before Cork Circuit Criminal Court last year where a man was jailed for six months after copying pictures from a woman’s Facebook page and posting them on a fake porn website he created.

In that instance the woman was contacted by a number of men on foot of seeing her image on the site and gardaí were able to prosecute the man who copied her pictures for harassment under the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

The source said gardaí were also examining whether they might be able to prosecute the person responsible under legislation governing child abuse material if the individual had superimposed images of girls under 17 onto sexually explicit pictures.

He also warned there might be jurisdictional difficulties in prosecuting someone if the pornographic website was created or controlled from outside Ireland.

Fergal Crehan, a barrister who runs The Hit Team, a company that assists people in having such material removed from the internet, said it was not clear a crime had been committed.

“They have been victims, but you can be a victim without necessarily a crime being committed. Other than harassment, there’s no perfect-fit offence available under the law,” he said.

Mr Crehan suggested those affected might possibly be able to sue the alleged perpetrator for the distress caused, for breach of privacy, or that they might assert their copyright in the pictures.

He said those affected might also use their right under the Data Protection Acts to seek the removal of the images.