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REVENGE PORN: Schoolgirls, local women targeted

SCHOOLGIRLS and other unsuspecting Fraser Coast women are being targeted online through a malicious "revenge porn" site.

The Chronicle can expose the site, which purports to have hundreds of explicit images of locals, after a five-month investigation.

The disturbing site Aussie Sluts, where intimate and/or explicit self images and video footage are posted and distributed, has become a haven for predators here and around the globe.

The pictures are commonly uploaded to the site by jilted ex-partners and hackers.

In an alarming trend, images of school students and local young women from the Maryborough and Hervey Bay regions are frequently requested and, in some cases, delivered.

Warning as jilted lovers and hackers target local women, girls

Girls from one particular high school, which will be kept anonymous in the interest of protecting it's students, are requested by name.

Dutch police are understood to have seized the website in the last 48 hours however the content was last night still available online.

Maryborough police were first made aware of the site's contents in December and are continuing to investigate whether teenagers and other residents have been compromised.

One formal complaint was made to police and has since been dealt with.

On the forum, users list specifications for the kind of image they are after.

The girl's first name and last initial or full last name are posted alongside their images.

One thread, titled "Maryborough sluts lots of them" had 199 posts and 150 images.

A responder posted "Great job guys! Keep me coming!"

 

The perpetrators asked for pictures of women from specific locations.
The perpetrators asked for pictures of women from specific locations. Contributed

On April 1, a user commented under a photo that he was going to go into a popular Maryborough pub on the weekend and would "smash a schooner over the ugly sluts face".

Earlier this year, another user asked for pictures of "any bay girls" while someone going under the name "Hervey Bay Anon" posted "let's start a new thread and share the goods".

The website was taken down in 2014 and 2015 but in both years, the content reappeared as a torrent and was archived allowing anyone to continue to access images.

Images are posted onto the site's message board which is commonly divided up categorically by countries and states with headings titled "sluts by state".

Shutting down these international hosts is particularly difficult.

Prosecuting anonymous offenders is also problematic but police still want victims to come forward.

Detective Senior Sergeant David Briese from the Maryborough Crime Investigation Branch confirmed officers were investigating local cases of 'revenge porn' being posted on websites.

"We take cyber bullying, online harassment and instances of revenge porn very seriously," he said.

"Anything of that nature which is reported is investigated.

"We are aware of this website and we are conducting investigations surrounding the matter."

 

Comments made on the revenge porn website.
Comments made on the revenge porn website. Contributed

How many people visit the site?

AN INVESTIGATION by News Regional revealed the website attracts 21.6 thousand daily visitors with a daily unique visitor count of 21,550.

According to the company's IT specialists, the site is believed to reach 646,500 monthly unique visitors with 5.41 pages seen per visit and daily page-views reaching 116,586.

America had the highest number of overseas users, accounting for 22 per cent, while Australia was responsible for 12.6 per cent.

The investigation also revealed the original source of the website, was likely a host in Europe.

On April 25 Dutch police seized the domain anon-ib which the Chronicle understands was the culprit.

In August 2016, it was revealed students from 71 Australian schools were targeted by the pornography ring.

Pressure to take sexual "selfies" revealed in shock report

A SHOCK number of people are falling victim to non-consensual "selfie" sharing.

In 2016, 4274 people participated in a survey conducted by RMIT University titled Australians' Experiences of Image-Based Abuse.

Of the participants, 56 per cent (2,406) were female and 44 per cent (1,868) were male and ranged in age from 16 to 49.

A survey summary found 23 per cent of respondents had experienced at least one form of image-based abuse which could be photos or videos where a person was nude, engaged in a sex act or showering or bathing.

The survey suggested men and young adults were more likely to voluntarily share a nude or sexual image of themselves with 47 per cent of participants admitting to sending a person a sexual image of themselves at least once.

However, pressured and/or unwanted sexual self-images were common with 30 percent of respondents saying they complied when they didn't want to.

Perpetrators of abuse were more likely to be male and known to the victim with 54 per cent of victims reporting the perpetrator was male, 33 per cent of perpetrators female and 13 per cent were either unknown or in a mixed group of both male and female perpetrators.

About 20 per cent of respondents said they had someone take a nude or sexual photo or video of them without permission and 11 per cent had images or videos distributed to others without consent.

Currently, Queensland has no criminal or civil penalties specifically for image-based abuse.

Prevention is the key, says expert

RATHER than waiting for new laws to be introduced, one University of Sunshine Coast law expert believes the focus should be on the dangers of explicit image sharing.

Criminology and Justice Lecturer Dr. Nadine McKillop (pictured) said despite the many advantages that came with development of the digital world, there were also new opportunities for exploitative behaviour, such as revenge porn.

"One of the key things we're concerned about is that 'digital natives', the young people who have grown up with technology and social media since birth, now use this technology as a routine method for courting and negotiating intimate relationships," she said.

"The difference from then and now is there's a platform of permanency when it comes to image-sharing.

"If you post a photo which you've taken of yourself, or someone else posts on your behalf, it could be used by others for different intentions, and without your consent."

Dr McKillop said it was difficult for victims to feel closure as these images were not easily removed from cyber space.

"A lot of the time, the people who maliciously upload photos aren't thinking beyond the immediate purpose (for example, revenge) and aren't likely to be considering that the photos could be used for exploitation purposes or something else."

"It is very difficult to remove things like this from the internet and kids haven't necessarily worked out that - in some cases - the consequences can be devastating.

"This is compounded by lack of knowledge by young people that posting sexual images of people under-age, even if they're in a relationship with them, could constitute an offence"

"We need to work with young people and discuss with them whether they should be taking photos and the boundaries around the trust and safe, consenting behaviours in a relationship," she said.

"Once (the picture) is in someone else's hands, you have no control over how that image is used and once it's on the internet, you have even less control."

 

Many images were published after jilted lovers or hackers shared them online.
Many images were published after jilted lovers or hackers shared them online. Alistair Brightman

Victim speaks out.. teacher's trust broken

THE Chronicle has spoken with a victim whose photos were posted to the site buy someone she trusted.

When Coast teacher Tammy* met with a man on popular dating app Tinder last year, little did she know nude photos would be taken and video footage captured of her during sexual activity.

"I trust too many, too often, so yes, I believed he was trustworthy as he had made the impression to be a friend," she said.

The pair met locally where they engaged in sexual activity in which time, she noticed he had his phone which she "whacked out of his hand".

Thinking the man was "mucking around", she didn't pursue it further.

It wasn't until she was contacted by a number of other girls, who said her name was attached to revealing images online, that she realised she had been betrayed.

"The images clearly show his room so I am now aware that he had actually recorded my images/video without consent," she said.

"I was in total disbelief. In no way did I think anyone I had been in contact with would share such images online."

A close friend of Tammy went onto the forum to see the images for herself and in the process, discovered school-aged girls were being targeted.

After discovering her images, Tammy immediately went to local police to report the breach of privacy.

While there are no laws which specifically target the person who betrayed her trust, Tammy hopes that will soon change.

In the meantime, she will continue to help protect other women, particularly vulnerable teens, from suffering as she has.

"Just do not send your private images to anyone," she said.

"If you do, remember that your permission to one does not mean that you approve for anyone else to utilise your images.

"To be sexy you don't need to show nudity," she said.

"You can be fully clothed and be gorgeous but once those images are online, you'll never get them back."

Push to follow southern states in image law reform

WHILE most states have yet to specifically introduce "selfie" laws, NSW and Victoria are leading the charge.

In 2017, the New South Wales Government introduced the Crimes Amendment (Intimate Images) Bill 2017.

The Bill addresses the government's commitment to reforms which address the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, also known as "revenge porn" or "image-based abuse".

"Non-consensual sharing of intimate images is a serious invasion and violation of a person's privacy," the Bill read.

"It can have severe impacts on the victim, causing the victim shame, embarrassment and humiliation.

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"It can also have adverse consequences for the victim's reputation, family, friends and employment."

Parliamentary inquiries in both NSW and at the Commonwealth expressed concerns regarding the effects and lack of "effective criminal law response to date".

The Bill introduced new offences in a bid to deter and punish those who share non-consensual images and ensures victims are protected under the criminal law.

Offenders of sharing non-consensual intimate images, defined as still or moving images, can attract fines of up to $11,000.

In Victoria, there are the offences 'distributing an intimate image without consent' and 'threatening to distribute an intimate image without consent'.

Anyone who finds they are a victim of image-based abuse can report it to the eSafety Commissioner by calling 1800880176.

If you or someone you know needs support, contact Lifeline on 131144.