Charity finds voyeur sites copy and republish 90 per cent of sexually explicit pictures posted on profiles
Nearly nine out of 10 sexually explicit images uploaded by teenagers to social media sites will end up being copied and pasted onto voyeuristic websites, often with devastating consequences for the youngsters.
The figures from research carried out by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) illustrate the huge scale of the problem.
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Research by the charity, which works to stamp out online child abuse, found that in a period of 48 working hours over four weeks in September, 12,224 images and videos from sites such as Facebook and YouTube had been copied. They reappeared on 68 of what the IWF is calling parasitic websites – those set up purely to host and promote these stolen images.
IWF's technical researcher, Sarah Smith, said: "During the course of our work, we encounter large quantities of self-generated sexual content, which has been copied from its original location and then uploaded elsewhere to form collections, but this is the first time we've been able to demonstrate the extent to which this occurs."
The IWF said, while these may seem like "lifeless numbers", real children are behind the statistics and publishing these images leads to real life tragedies, such as bullying and alcohol and drug abuse.
However there is no more graphic an example of this than the recent suicide of 15-year-old Amanda Todd.
The Canadian teen was viciously bulled on Facebook after a hate page was set up on the site featuring topless photos of her. Despite moving to a new city and school the relentless bullying continued. She recorded a video of her ordeal and on 10 October this year she hanged herself.
Letters from desperate and often suicidal teens to the IWF show that Amanda's story is not an isolated incident.
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF, said: "This research gives an unsettling indication of the number of images and videos on the internet featuring young people performing sexually explicit acts or posing.
"We need young people to realise that once an image or a video has gone online, they may never be able to remove it entirely."
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