Saturday 19 January 2019

Paedophile sites stealing children's 'sexting' images

Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

Mark O'Regan

Explicit 'sexting' photos taken by Irish children are ending up on websites viewed by paedophiles.

'Sexting' or 'sex texting' is sending personal sexually explicit images or videos via technology.

Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said photos of this nature have been stolen and published on websites used by paedophiles.

"We know that some of the images have been stolen online - that is a reality," she told the Irish Independent.

She was speaking after a new report by the UK watchdog Internet Watch Foundation and the technology giant Microsoft said they identified nearly 4,000 such images and videos in a snapshot covering three months last autumn.

Of those, 667 featured children who were 15 or younger, and of those 286 were thought to be under 10.

The explicit pictures are often taken by girls at the request of boys within their social group, and are forwarded on by mobile phone. But unknown to these young teens, these photographs may end up being passed around in school - as well as being shared and broadcast on social networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr and Imgur.

Images posted on the internet have later re-appeared on so-called 'parasite' websites after being hacked or copied.

Ms O'Malley-Dunlop said that pictures of Irish children have been taken from Facebook and have appeared on pornographic sites.

She said a majority of teenagers were aware that explicit images were being circulated on the web, but were being lulled into a false sense of security.

She warned the Department of Education had a "huge role" to play in ensuring children were adequately educated on the risks of this craze.

She also said the belief held by young people that Snapchat images "disappear forever" is no longer true, because users have discovered ways to save these messages.

A screengrab can be taken, copying the image, or the phone's screen photographed while it is displayed - and it can then be uploaded to the internet and widely shared.

"Kids in school are tomorrow's potential perpetrators - and victims - of this type of behaviour.

"They need to be appropriately informed about consent, because we don't have a definition of consent in Irish law.

"We're calling for it to be included in the new Sexual Offences bill," Ms O'Malley- Dunlop said.

Irish Independent

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