Identifying and prosecuting the person or people who modified social media pictures of girls as young as 14 before posting them on a pornography website could be very difficult, according to a senior garda source.
Gardaí based at Anglesea Street Garda Station in Cork City have confirmed that they have launched an investigation following a number of complaints.
The pictures were posted on social media sites a few years ago and all the victims are now young adults. So far, the complaints have come from people living in the Cork area, but gardaí say they would not be surprised if young women from around the country have also fallen victim.
“Yes, we have received a number of complaints and we will investigate them insofar as we can within the legal ambiguities which exist,” said the garda source.
“Whether a crime has been committed has to be established. It is not clear or straightforward.”
He said people who posted pictures on social media were posting them on a very public forum and unless they were very careful about who has access to them, the images could be taken and used by unscrupulous individuals, as appears to have happened in this case.
“It’s a very grey area and will be complicated because of the lack of legal definition around it,” he said.
The complication arises because while the images were of minors, they have been doctored. It is likely that the porn website is based abroad, which also complicates any possible prosecution as it would be extra-jurisdictional.
Gardaí believe whoever used the pictures “must have some editorial access”, to the pornography website.
The source said this is an unusual case and would serve as a reminder to people posting on social media to be careful of what they upload and who can access it.
“People should make sure that only their friends and people they trust have access to their page,” he said.
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