A Co Down woman has explained that she ‘now owes’ every photo online, after images she posted to her personal Facebook account were shared without her permission.
The Facebook group called “The Best Schoolgirls” – which has since been deleted by Meta – had shared images of local school girls without their permission and described the page as “sharing photos of cute girls in school uniforms… genuine pictures only please”.
Sophia Armstrong was one of those whose images of her aged 18 were shared on the page.
She told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster she made the “horrible” discovery after a friend alerted her to one of her school pictures being shared on the page, describing how people commenting under the photo were “disgusting” and made her feel “exposed to something”. you had not done”.
“I felt awful, the fact that someone found a picture of me in my school uniform and made it into a sexually gratifying thing, it was pretty disgusting,” she explained.
“I guess every time they are posted on your account, you are in control of the situation and what happens with the photo, as this account was making these photos a sexually wild thing,” he said. she continued.
“It was literally photos from the day I left, there was nothing sexual about it.”
Ms Armstrong said she contacted the PSNI and was told there was ‘nothing criminally wrong’ with the page as the images were in the public domain.
A PSNI spokesperson said it had received three reports regarding the page and confirmed that no criminal offense had been committed, but the nature of the page is still under investigation.
“It’s the equivalent of someone reposting something on Facebook unfortunately,” Ms Armstrong added.
“I have been told that I need to change my privacy settings on my account. Telling a victim to switch accounts in order to prevent this from happening in the future doesn’t seem 100% acceptable to me.
“I shouldn’t be the one who has to change my life to prevent accounts like this from being created.
“I understand that no crime has been committed, but every time there is a majority of people who say they are really uncomfortable … especially minors.
“There must be something that can be done. It’s really scary to think of all the things people can get away with before they actually commit a crime.
“I question every photo I put up. Any photo I post now, I say it’s okay to post. I shouldn’t have to do this. This is my account, these are my images.
In a statement, Meta confirmed the page had been taken down and said it was taking action to remove groups used to share images like this.
A spokesperson said: “We are removing Facebook profiles, pages and groups that are dedicated to sharing otherwise innocent images of children with captions, hashtags or comments that contain signs of affection or comments. We removed this Facebook group for violating our policies.
Child safety expert Jim Gamble told the BBC he thought the page “deserved police attention”.
“Context is key in how these images are used. The context of the sites they are aggregated on would give me reasonable grounds to worry about the individual harvesting them,” he said.
“When you bring them together [images] and host them the way it’s done, I think it’s reasonable to infer that there may be a sexual connotation to it – now there may not be – but why host photos of schoolgirls in this way?
“I think a site like this deserves police attention. The police should, and I’m sure they do, try to establish the motivation for this person.
“For young people, writing your images takes two minutes.
“People should be able to post their images on social media without it being harvested and placed in a sexualizing context.”
In a statement, the PSNI told the BBC: “We understand the stress that young people and their parents and guardians must be feeling.
“The photos reviewed by the police to date are already open to the public and did not show any nudity and therefore no criminal offense was found.
“However, the nature of this page is still under investigation and will remain open.”