The social media giant confirmed it will look into the incidents after a number of young women complained that their images had been shared on an explicit internet forum over the course of five years.
One victim said the perpetrators obtained her pictures despite her efforts to safeguard her profile by enabling Facebook’s strictest privacy settings.
Katie Kirwan, 19, said she was informed that her images were on the website earlier this week. She said the forum member posting her images had targeted a group of Cork teenagers who are all known to each other.
Ms Kirwan said the first picture of her shared to the forum was posted five years ago and in that time her photographs have amassed over 1m views.
The images are accompanied by graphically violent and misogynistic comments by users of the site, some of whom add doctored pornographic pictures using the source material obtained from Facebook.
“It was just so scary to think that 14-year-old me was walking around, and that unbeknownst to me there could have been any weirdo on the street looking at me going ‘oh that’s the girl I’ve seen on the website last night’,” she said.
One theory is that the perpetrator obtained access to the women’s images by setting up a fake Facebook profile and befriending the victims.
“It’s someone in our friends list, definitely,” said Ms Kirwan.
“We looked through and we all have one page in common that, when we looked at it closely, appeared to be a fake page.
“That page has since been deleted, so we have a theory that it is the person behind that page.”
Gardaí are also investigating following the young women’s complaints, which were first made public on the Neil Prendeville Show on Red FM.
However a senior Garda source described the legality surrounding the matter as “a grey area”.
“Yes, we have received a number of complaints and we will investigate them insofar as we can within the legal ambiguities which exist,” the garda source said.
“Whether a crime has been committed has to be established. It is not clear or straightforward.”
Fergal Crehan is MD of TheHitTeam.com, a company that specialises in using legal methods to remove leaked photos and videos, internet targeting, and revenge porn.
Mr Crehan, a barrister, agreed that it is unclear whether, under existing law, any offence has been committed.
“Unlike the UK, Ireland has no law criminalising publication of intimate images of persons without consent,” said Mr Crehan.
“If such a law is introduced, and it should be, then consideration might be given to including cases like this, where non-explicit images are used, but in a sexual context.
“In some cases, a victim might be able to assert copyright in the image, and have it taken down by the website. Also data protection law grants a right to control one’s data, including images, and to object to publication of it without consent. This offers victims a quick, discreet fix, so long as the website is EU-based. Unfortunately, many are not.”
Facebook said it takes the safety of its users seriously, and also fights against the exploitation of children.