herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Victims as young as 12 had photos hijacked by porn site

Lizzy Ryan (pictured) and Katie Kirwin had photos ‘harvested’
Lizzy Ryan (pictured) and Katie Kirwin had photos ‘harvested’
Katie Kirwin

Almost 50 Irish teens, some as young as 12, had their social media photos hijacked and posted on an international porn site with claims several even had their photos traded online.

A major Garda investigation is under way into the image-harvesting scam, with a senior detective confirming that they were now following a definite line of inquiry as to the individual who uploaded the private images.

The IP address used to upload the photos from social media pages to the international porn site was traced to Ireland and the individual - who operated by the nickname 'Irish Exposed' - showed a preference for young girls with Irish social media accounts.

'Sickening'

One young Dubliner, Lizzy Ryan (19), who had eight friends exploited by the site, said she found it "sickening" that some people were now attempting to blame the innocent teens for what happened.

Lizzy, from Templeogue, said it was "very disturbing" that clear preferences were shown on the site for the social media photos that depicted young girls.

"I find it appalling that some people out there are actually victim-blaming. I think it is sick that some people are trying to focus the blame on the people whose images were taken, rather than those who were exploiting," she told the Herald.

"It is weird how people are out there saying: 'It is their fault'. It is absolutely nothing to do with the girls involved."

She said several of her friends had been traumatised by what happened though, luckily, her own social media photos were not uploaded.

"It is exactly the same as breaking into someone's home and stealing their printed photos," she told the Herald.

Many of the photos were taken from private social media pages - and it remains unclear how 'Irish Exposed' gained access to the images.

Another teen, Katie Kirwin (19) from Cork, admitted she found some of the vile comments on the site about the photos to be "sickening and quite alarming".

Katie had virtually all her social media photos harvested without her permission and displayed on the porn site.

The greatest number of comments and hits were recorded for the photos taken when she was aged just 14 and 15.

"It is really quite worrying. Of course, you'd be concerned about who has looked at those photos and who has attempted to download and store them," she said.

Innocent

Katie pointed out that all the images were innocent social shots with none being provocative or risque in any way.

"Virtually all my photos are of just my face. In many cases, they are the face of a 14-year-old and 15-year-old child," she said.

Katie has now lodged a formal complaint with gardai over what happened.

In one case, a porn site user queried where he could find more images of a specific girl.

An appeal for information yesterday on the scam via Cork radio stations, RedFM and 96FM, shocked gardai when it emerged that almost 50 Irish teens had been targeted, rather than the 25 initially suspected.

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