Internet hackers damage reputations through sexting websites

smouseWith the always-advancing market of technology, sharing explicit photos has become simple. Sexting, once deemed an inappropriate teenage fad, has now developed into a dangerous national phenomenon.

Sexting is defined as “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone,” according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. With apps like Snapchat and Kik, the mobile market has provided users the means to send racy photos right in the palm of their hand.

“Overall, 14 percent (of adults) said they have filmed sexual content on their mobile devices. That figure jumps to one in three adults for the U.S. exclusively,” reported Julianne Pepitone of NBC News.
 

 
However, this fad has recently taken a threatening turn. When images are uploaded to social media accounts, sent vie email or simply sitting in one’s camera roll on his or her phone, hackers can access these accounts and steal the photos.

“The suspects are creating social media accounts and posting the unlawful photographs on those accounts,” Pembroke Pines Police Capt. Carlos Bermudez told the Sun Sentinel. “The account holders are soliciting their followers to unlawfully upload additional photographs to these sites.”

These stolen pictures are then put on third party websites, dedicated to hosting suggestive photos of both men and women, without the consent of the individual. Some sites even offer personal information of the subject of the photo, such as age and where they attend school.

“According to estimates, hundreds of websites now specialize in the anonymous — and unauthorized — posting of girls’ explicit photos, often accompanied by details about where they live or go to school, along with links to their social media accounts,” Alyssa Giacobbe of Teen Vogue reported.

Once individuals are informed of their unwanted online presence, swift action to have the photos removed ought to be taken. However, these victims are stopped in their tracks thanks to laws that defend user privacy on the Internet.

“Though some girls have filed civil suits to try to fight back, most of the websites that host these photos are protected by a federal law that says they’re not responsible for what their users post,” Giacobbe reported.

What happened to individual privacy? To have complete strangers enjoy a personal photo is an invasion of privacy just as much as uncovering online profiles. While sexting is not the most mature or safe means of communication, at the end of the day, it is a personal choice.

The idea of “what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet” is consuming the nation, providing a lame excuse for manipulative online behavior. To have your reputation ruined because some intrusive Internet hacker decided to post your photo for all to see should not be tolerated or go overlooked.

“There’s probably individuals whose photographs are posted on these sites and they have no idea that they are on there,” Bermudez said.

The Internet is free space, but when used in damaging ways such as this, users become imprisoned in these inaccurate online personas. Internet hackers have taken sexting to a whole new level, and it’s time for authorities to hold this behavior accountable.

Reach the columnist at rsmouse@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @BeccaSmouse