Digital Fish 2014

In the aftermath of the publication of Digital Fish we issued the following press release:
Call for EU to impose sanctions and penalties against online pornographic and image sharing sites that facilitate uploading of non-nude images of children, presentation of those images with indecent commentary, and partial or full identification of victims of this practice; and work with social media sites to create a means whereby they can identify images copied from their sites and uploaded to other places on the internet, and ensure that geo-location data for posts are not available for public retrieval through techniques and software solutions.
# Background
We undertook an 18 month investigation into these practices that culminated in our publication of a report on 15th April 2015 entitled ‘Digital Fish’, elements of which were core to an RTE Investigations Unit documentary entitled ‘Online and Unprotected’ aired on 4th December 2014.
In our report we highlight the highly sexualised environment that is non-nude images of children, and the increasing intermingling between adults and teenagers that are exploring their emerging sexuality online.
Core to our report is the increasing practice of image-sharing/porn site users copying social media images of children and teenagers without their knowledge and posting them to these sites. This practice was highlighted in a EUROPOL and European Financial Coalition against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children report earlier this year that clearly outlines the risks posed to victims.
Our report is focussed on these victims also, but we highlight both the degree to which Irish young girls are victimised, and the high success rate of identifying these victims from online resources alone. In some cases geo-location was possible to discover their homes and other places that they frequent through techniques and software solutions designed for that purpose.
# These are the key numbers from our study:
- The estimated number of Irish girls victimised likely exceeds 2,000
- The estimated number of images circulating past and present likely exceeds 20,000
- 214 victims were identified through online means only (UPDATE 2018 - the number of identified victims of image abuse is now closer to 400)
- Of 22 victims sampled, 14 were geo-located to their homes through techniques and software solutions
- up to 80 victims are at elevated or high risk due to site users and those uploading either partially identifying victims or trading identifies through messaging and email.
# Key Vulnerabilities For Young People (children and teenagers):
- An image-sharing/porn site user can upload partial of fully personally identifying information about a victim and the site then hosts that data.
- Site users can trade identities of their victims.
- Some images reveal dance clubs and schools that victims attend.
- Where social media posts have geo-tagging enabled then it is possible to trace a victim to their home and other locations that they frequent.
- Image-sharing/porn sites and their users continue to benefit from these practices without redress.
- Most of all: victimised young people are thrust into potential vulnerability through no fault of their own, and most often without them being aware that they are in fact victims.
# Key Issues That Young People and Parents Cannot Fix:
- A victim or parent cannot prevent someone uploading images that they place on their social media page.
- Disclosure of victims identities between web site users is irreversible once this has occurred.
- Retrieval of geo-location data by a web site user is irreversible once captured.
# What We Ask The EU To Do:
- Consider that image-sharing/porn sites make money through advertising driven by users visiting the pages with victims images on them.
- Also appreciate that these images do not qualify as user generated content since the user uploading did not create the image and has no permission to upload it.
- We ask the EU to rebalance internet freedoms with the needs for safety, protection and management of reputations of our young people in regard to these continuing image uploads.
- We believe that no image-sharing/porn site or its users can be allowed to pose a threat to a child through the practices outlined in this report without a powerful response from the relevant EU institutions.
- We ask the EU to liaise with social media sites to agree a system whereby images copied from their pages can be traced to web sites that host and benefit from them and seek their removal.
- We call on social media sites to restrict the capability of techniques and software solutions that retrieve geo-location data from posts by children and teenagers.