Internet pornographers steal the explicit pictures young people post of themselves and their friends, and put them on other websites, according to a British study released Monday.
Analysts at the Internet Watch Foundation spent 47 hours looking at data collected throughout September and found 12,224 photos and videos of sexual acts or poses uploaded to (usually) legitimate websites like social networking sites. Of those, 10,776 (or 88%) were found to have been "scraped" and loaded on more than 68 other so-called parasite websites.
The parasite websites contain collections of sexually explicit images, the report says. Most of them were created with the express purpose of displaying young people.
"I came to regret posting photographs of myself naively on the Internet and tried to forget about it, but strangers recognized me from the photographs and made lewd remarks at school," reads one excerpt included in the IWF's report, the name of the minor withheld. "I endured so much bullying because of this photograph and the others...I was eventually admitted for severe depression and was treated for a suicide attempt."
Not only did the volume of images alarm researchers, so did the lack of control users have over their own photos.
"Once an image has been copied onto a parasite website, it will no longer suffice to simply remove the image from the online account," IWF CEO Susie Hargreaves said. "We need young people to realize that once an image or a video has gone online, they may never be able to remove it entirely."
The report wasn't able to take into account whether the young people in the images had posed willingly.