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Images of Irish schoolgirls are being used to advertise online escort services

ChildWatch.ie warn of the dangers of young people posting photographs online.

Image: Shutterstock/scyther5

A NEW REPORT into the uploading of images of second level Irish schoolgirls to online image sharing and pornographic sites has been published today.

The report highlights the dangers of young people posting photographs which are being used in internet porn galleries.

The ‘Digital Fish’ report by ChildWatch.ie investigated the uploading of images of Irish (primarily Dublin) teenage girls to adult porn sites.

In the autumn of 2013 galleries containing 872 images of the teenage girls in ‘Wez/Wrights Gear’ were uploaded to an adult porn site by one of its users.

Following chatter about the uploads the girls became aware of the uploads and news reports circulated, but ChildWatch.ie says none of those reports came close to outlining the depth of the problem and the significance of the issues underlying this case.

Junior Cert students

The first known uploads of these types occurred in 2008. These featured girls that were in the junior cycle at a Dublin secondary school at the time. Of the images discovered, 27 different Irish school uniforms have featured.

ChildWatch.ie says the uploads are continuing and conservatively estimate the numbers of images uploaded since 2013 to be ten thousand, and possibly twice that number.

Where images have been in place for a time and become popular there is evidence that they are copied by many online users and subject to redistribution between various image sharing and porn sites.

As part of its research it took 22 images of young Irish people found on adult sites and used geolocation techniques to find out how many could be traced back to their social media profiles.

Of that sampling, 14 were successfully traced to their homes and other places that they frequent. The group says this opens up a whole host of dangers for young people.

It is impossible to estimate if this would represent a trend across all victims, but the degree of success with this limited group is a concern.

Online escort sites 

Some images of students are being misused on commercial sexual sites such as advertising the services of online escorts. Some students affected are first through third year secondary level students, while some individual schools and dance clubs have been particularly hard hit, said the report.

It states that the young people highlighted in this document were in many cases still open to being targeted by individuals that range from those that are seeking fun, revenge, ill-will, right through to deviant interests in young people.

Some victim’s images are revealing to an extent that makes them very vulnerable to harassment threats such as bullying, extortion, sextortion and grooming. Some victims maybe vulnerable irrespective of the images revealed due to a personal liking from an online user.

ChildWatch.ie says it’s report identified 214 Irish young victims, which is just 10% to 20% of those affected by user generated uploads. 

Reputation damage 

The damage to the victim’s reputations could be huge, it said, as online researchers validating CV’s could discover the images. Despite it being beyond the ability of the victim to remove the image, they could still be judged for it.

The group said the activities of online paedophiles are being severely disrupted by the efforts of the digital industry and law enforcement trying to apply pressure to the outlets for their activities on the Internet.

However paedophiles always have the upper hand because they set the agenda, and law enforcement and ISP’s have to respond.

The investigation was a core research element to a module of the RTE Investigations Unit documentary ‘Online and Unprotected’ aired in December 2014.

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