Accounts sexualising images of girls in school uniform suspended by Twitter after highlighted by Irish Examiner 

Accounts sexualising images of girls in school uniform suspended by Twitter after highlighted by Irish Examiner 
File image. Picture: Getty

Almost 20 more accounts sexualising images of girls and teenagers in school uniform were suspended by Twitter after they were reported by the Irish Examiner.

Young girls were described as "beautiful baby" and “just about my size” in disturbing Twitter accounts followed by hundreds of thousands of users.

Multiple accounts called for people to submit photos of ‘daughters, step-daughters, crushes, ex-girlfriends, wives, sisters, mums, cousins, aunts, work colleagues or friends’.

Thousands of women across Ireland may have their images used without their knowledge or consent on these sites which quickly proliferate online where a sordid community is ever ready to consume and comment on the ‘content’.

And these accounts are not limited to Twitter with similar images stolen, reposted and abused on Instagram and Facebook.

One sexually explicit Twitter account posted family photos of Irish mums with their daughters, encouraging men to ‘rate’ them and ejaculate on their images.

Teenage girls from Cork, whose images were stolen and abused on Twitter accounts suspended in May, also reappeared on this site.

Many of the accounts have tens of thousands of followers and images are liked and retweeted thousands of times. Each time an image is retweeted, it exposes it to a larger audience, amplifying the abuse and the potential for psychological harm to the victim pictured.

Explicit videos of males ejaculating on photos of Irish females, from the age of about 13 - 60, were also posted to a number of sites.

One particularly disturbing site posted images of Irish women, sometimes fully naked and performing sex acts - often using full names and the places that they allegedly live, including Cork and Galway.

One woman who was pictured naked on the site with her face clearly visible was described as an ‘Irish teacher.’ There is currently no legislation to criminalise sharing intimate images without a person’s consent online but a commitment has been made in the programme for government to progress a Bill which would make it a specific, jailable offence.

After the Irish Examiner reported sites sexualising images of teenage girls in school uniform, or mixing innocent TikTok videos of young schoolgirls in uniform alongside hardcore pornography, Twitter quickly suspended these sites.

Twitter said that the accounts breach the company’s child exploitation (CSE) policy which bans "sexualized commentaries about or directed at a known or unknown minor”.

'Startling and shocking'

In June, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris warned of a “startling and shocking” increase in referrals of online child abuse material during the lockdown.

Notifications to gardaí of this material had increased by 26% between 1 March and 31 May this year and Mr Harris pledged more resources to combat this crime.

Some experts have warned that young people, relying on the internet for connection with peers during the pandemic, may have engaged in more risky online behaviour like sharing intimate images.

A recent European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) report called Catching the virus- Cybercrime, Disinformation and the Covid-19 Pandemic, says that the distribution of child sexual exploitation material online appears to be on the increase.

Legal experts say that Irish legislation has not caught up with technology and that this legislative gap allows online abuse to often go unpunished.

Noeline Blackwell, of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said that legislating for online abuse, establishing a digital safety commissioner and a clear and comprehensive complaints procedure must be priorities for the new government.

“Our legislation pre-dates the internet so it has no capacity to deal well with this kind of malicious stealing of a person’s image, and abuse of it," Ms Blackwell said.

"It can deal with a Snooping Tom in a physical world but it can’t deal with them online.

"But the world we live in is as much virtual as physical right now, and you can’t ignore the propensity for crime online.

"We want to impress on all of the parties in government that this is no small thing. This is actual abuse. It causes real harm and it is not a victimless crime.” 

The Online Safety Media Regulation Bill 2019 has been published in draft form by Government but Ms Blackwell said that it is “entirely insufficient” and must be urgently amended and then enacted to protect people online.

 

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