porn

Mom's Facebook photo pops up on porn, dating sites

April 30, 2012 at 1:49 PM ET

When Jules Rahim posed poolside in a bikini three years ago, she never expected her picture would be posted on either a porn site or a dating website. But that's exactly what happened, the Straits Times of Singapore reports.

The Singapore mother of four (including a newborn) found out about her inadvertent adult modeling career when a friend called her with the awkward news. The bikini picture Rahim posted on her Facebook was now being used to solicit pornography. A few days later, another friend advised her that the same picture showed up on dating site sgGirls.com, illustrating an ad for a charge-per-minute telephone chat line.

"It's embarrassing," Rahim, 32, told the Straits Times. "People I know may think wrongly of me." 

Rahim, it seems, is the victim of photo-jacking — the exploitation of photos scraped from Facebook and other Internet outlets. And Rahim isn't the only victim of image exploitation. The Straits Times reports there are at least two other women in Singapore whose social media photos showed up on the same sites where Rahim's picture appeared.

Rahim filed police reports against both the pornography and dating sites, and intends to file a harassment complaint as well. But there's little, if anything, authorities can do about it. Photo-jacking occupies a legal gray area in Singapore, as well as the United States.

In February, police in a small Massachusetts town asked the FBI for assistance after photos of at least 17 high school girls turned up on pornographic websites. For the most part, the girls were fully clothed in the photos, which were reportedly taken from Facebook and other social networks. As with Rahim, the victims had little legal recourse against the website.

The photos didn't constitute child pornography because the girls were fully clothed. Further, the U.S. Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects Internet service providers — including websites and blogs, in this instance — that host the purloined images. Victims who want their photos removed have the option of claiming copyright infringement. Even then, the burden of proof remains on the plaintiff, as the copyright is generally owned by the person who snapped the shot, not the person in the picture.

In Singapore, Rahim isn't letting it drop. "I want to sue them," Rahim told the Straits Times. "These websites have no right to use my pictures without my consent." The dating site sgGirls.com is hosted in Dusseldorf, Germany and the pornography site is hosted in Los Angeles, California — so both sites operate outside of Singapore law enforcement. Rahim has attempted to contact sgGirls.com site and request that the site remove her photo, but hasn't heard back.

The obvious advice in such cases of photo explotation is to remind users to lock down their social media privacy settings, but even then it may not be enough. It's always possible the perpetrator is a so-called "friend," on Facebook and elsewhere. And even the tightest privacy settings can't protect you from bad "friends."

Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about the Internet. Tell her to get a real job on Twitter and/or Facebook. Also, Google+.

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