The Creepy Underworld Of Revenge Porn On The Dark Web

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There’s a really creepy and perverse world of revenge porn on the dark web, with communities ‘trading’ photos of girls without their knowledge.

Revenge porn is not just as simple as a guy or girl posting photos of somebody they know online – an ex, a partner’s ex, for example. People are hacking iCloud accounts and stealing images and videos to trade in online groups.

There are also dedicated revenge porn sites refusing to remove footage posted without the subject’s consent.

Listen to one victim’s story here:

Laura Higgins works for Revenge Porn Helpline, an organisation which works very closely with porn companies and social media sites to help get content taken down.

Sadly, she says there are a few hardcore sites who refuse to work with the charity, although the helpline does have a good success rate at getting content removed on the victim's behalf.

Laura says the cases she sees are 'really broad', and goes into detail about the types of people who post revenge porn.

She told UNILAD:

The sorts of cases we see are really broad, so sometimes there's already a power imbalance, some people may have forced that person into taking them in the first place.

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She continued:

We do have female on female crime. So the new partner finds pictures of the ex and there's the whole woman scorned thing, that happens.

Then there is the - excuse the expression - the 'slut shaming' thing, so there are blogs and websites that post pictures of girls doing the walk of shame. We've had a lot from Army barracks where they just post pictures, and often these girls are unconscious through alcohol so we're there going 'actually that's a sexual offence being committed'.

Quite often there will be two or three guys with a girl and they will post pictures, and then they'll take photos of her leaving the barracks the next morning and just try to shame these girls.

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But there's more, Laura explained there are 'image boards' where people share and trade images of unknowing victims.

She said:

There are image boards that started circulating with the iCloud hacking pictures of Jennifer Lawrence. Basically people can anonymously upload images and share them. What tends to happen is they do it within their local community, and people share and trade - and I will use that word - images of girls they know, and it's really creepy.

On most of these occasions, these guys aren't trying to distress these girls, they've started out going 'I thought she was really hot in school, have you got any pictures of her?' And then they swap pictures among themselves using things like Bitcoin to buy them off each other.

What some girls these days might do is photo shoots, some do amateur modelling or semi-nude photo shoots. These guys will swap their photobuckets, their iCloud account details, they will swap details on how to hack them to get the images.

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She added:

From a girl's point of view, they feel so violated, they know it's going to be somebody they know, it could be their little brother's friend, or it might be an ex-boyfriend, or it could be some people who they go and sit in a Wetherspoon's with on a Friday night. It's really violating and they're sitting there going 'I don't know who it is but I can try and guess'. But from the guy's point of view, they don't think they're doing anything wrong - 'we're saying how hot you are'.

According to Laura there are two types of behaviours, there are the people who hack accounts and share images to those close to the victim - family, friends, colleagues and bosses - and there are the people who upload the images and video to porn sites.

Laura explains:

From my point of view, my job will be done when I don't have a job anymore.

We want society to stand up and say 'this is not ok'. At the moment, there is still a huge amount of victim-blaming - 'if you didn't share photos then this wouldn't happen'.

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A number of Laura's clients have had photos taken without their knowledge. People are being filmed when they're intoxicated and unaware of it, and there are people having their personal photos stolen from storage, who took the images in a private capacity.

She continued:

Victim-blaming is just ridiculous, this is how they used to talk about rape 10 years ago. We need to change that, we need to change the language - a quarter of our clients are men, this is not just about saying 'men are bad, women are the victims'. Generally we need society to change the way they look at this, because women don't have a lot of empathy in a lot of cases.

Young men are growing up in this society where misogyny is so rife, women are perceived as objects and some of the language we see on the comments on these revenge porn posts is horrific - you know 'women need to be beaten, tied up, raped'. But if you spoke to some of those men in real life, they'd pass it off as 'banter'.

We do see a lot of content where people are off their head, they can't have consented to those images so we need to revisit those basic human values and we need to talk to much younger children on both sides about this.

The Creepy Underworld Of Revenge Porn On The Dark Web %name@McGlynnClare / Twitter

So what needs to be done? Clare McGlynn, Professor of Law at Durham University, has written and published academic work on revenge porn.

She worked with some Labour ministers to make sure revenge porn laws were adopted in 2015.

She told UNILAD:

I'd done work before on changing the law regarding extreme pornography, so I'd worked with a number of ministers on that issue and so when the topic of revenge pornography came up, it was quite a topic for public debate.

What I've found is it has been a great process, it is very welcome there are some laws covering revenge pornography, but the Scottish law is particularly good. What we need to do now is look back at the English law and revise it because it's rather limited.

Professor McGlynn wants to see English laws on revenge porn updated to match those in Scotland.

She said:

One of the differences is about the threats to distribute images. In some cases, and this is often in a domestic abuse scenario, you get someone threatening to share images, which is a method of controlling someone, so Scottish law clearly covers that.

It's also about the intentions. So in England, to actually get a conviction, you have to show the perpetrator has a direct intention to cause distress to the victim, whereas in Scotland, that can just be one of the factors. Many people will distribute images for finance or 'for a laugh', and in England, those reasons aren't actually covered.

There has been a lot of public debate recently about 'upskirting' (the practice of taking photos up a woman's skirt), so there's a lot of talk about changing the law to make sure it covers upskirting. If we're going to change that law, we should use that as an opportunity to try and update the laws on revenge porn to make sure they cover more situations, and also to grant anonymity to victims because that's also what's missing at the moment.

If you've been affected by any of the issues, please contact Revenge Porn Helpline:

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