Revenge porn forums sharing drives full of alphabetised photos of Australian women


Updated

March 23, 2018 06:28:14

There’s a secretive online world, where men trade nudes of women without their consent, often with their names and locations attached.

Key points:

  • Research suggests as many as one in five people have been victims of revenge porn
  • Office of the eSafety Commissioner could soon be given power to punish perpetrators
  • Maximum penalty for individuals would be up to $105,000

Australian research suggests that as many as one in five people have been victims of revenge porn, or “image-based abuse” — although the true extent of the problem is impossible to know.

And some forums even provide alphabetised directories of women in specific towns, cities and suburbs.

The Signal has been investigating one forum in particular, known as AussieSluts, that is hosted offshore.

On it, users with aliases request and often receive “wins” — the lingo for a nude of a specific person.

Within the forum, there are location-specific threads where users request photos of specific women in specific cities, towns or suburbs. Sometimes those requests are met, and sometimes they are not.

As well as individual photos, forums like this one also host links to large file dumps, with alphabetised folders of photos with women’s names attached.

Erick Watson started investigating the site because female friends of his got caught up in a similar leak, in 2015.

“I dived into all the sites I could find, followed all the links I could, and documented them, and wrote down anything I could think of about it, and then called up the police,” he said.

He recently became aware the same thing was happening again, this time on a different site.

When he investigated, he found an almost identical pattern of behaviour — the requests for “wins”, and links to large file dumps.

“The Google drive link I found was only Brisbane, and it was only girls A-L — meaning that there’s another part of that folder, and more than likely… there’s Cairns, and Sydney and Adelaide and Perth… that people are adding to,” Mr Watson said.

eSafety Commissioner ‘has no power’ to force deletion

The Government agency on the front line of dealing with image-based abuse is the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Sue Gabor, who runs their Image-Based Abuse team, said AussieSluts was just one of a number of sites that targeted Australian women and hosted their intimate photos without consent.

“We’re aware of [the website] … because people have come to us for help in getting their images removed,” Ms Gabor said.

She described the forum as a “middle of the road” player.

One in seven requests for help the commissioner receives from women are about the AussieSluts forum.

Currently, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has no power to force websites to co-operate with their requests, particularly ones like AussieSluts, which are often in foreign jurisdictions.

“At this point in time it’s a best efforts approach,” Ms Gabor said.

However that method has yielded surprisingly good results in the case of the AussieSluts forum.

“I wouldn’t say as much as 100 per cent success, but I’d say that they’ve been very responsive and removed stuff when we’ve asked them to,” Ms Gabor said.

Perpetrators could soon face big fines

It might not be long before the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is given the power to punish perpetrators.

For individuals, the maximum penalty would be up to $105,000. A hosting service can be fined up $525,000.

“I think it’ll be effective in some instances,” said Dr Nicola Henry, an image-based-abuse expert from RMIT who advised on the bill.

“Remember that these are a maximum fines, and that it may in fact be … that they get a removal notice [instead].”

The Federal Opposition has been arguing that a criminal penalties regime is necessary to address the problem.

At the moment, the criminal law on image-based abuse varies from state to state.

Dr Henry said she believes both civil and criminal penalties should be in place.

“It would be great if a new federal offence was designed to tackle image abuse,” she said.

“I also think we also need to have consistent legislation across all states and territories.”

Topics:

pornography,

law-crime-and-justice,

internet-culture,

australia

First posted

March 23, 2018 06:03:30



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