Singapore

Many blogs with pictures of local schoolgirls found on Tumblr

Girl, 19, makes police report after her photos are reposted on social media blog that has obscene content

Less than a year after it was taken down, a blog reposting photos of female students, accompanied by lewd comments, has resurfaced with a new name.

The blog on micro-blogging platform Tumblr seems to target girls mainly from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) by reposting photos that the victims had uploaded on social media.

Replying to queries by The New Paper, an NP spokesman said: "We have reported the page to Tumblr and requested them to take down the new blog.

"We are also assisting the police in their investigations. We are unable to confirm if the photos posted are those of our students. "

In the previous incident in May last year, NP made a police report after photos of several students were reposted on a Tumblr blog.

A search by TNP yesterday shows the latest blog is among dozens on Tumblr circulating images of local schoolgirls.

The photos often feature them engaging in normal social activities, such as birthday celebrations, class gatherings or sports events.

Some are from secondary schools and tertiary institutions, and are pictured wearing their uniforms on school grounds.

While the photos themselves are innocent, most of them are accompanied by captions that range from the suggestive to the blatantly obscene.

A 19-year-old polytechnic student, who wanted to be known only as Shannon, told TNP that she was horrified to learn on Monday that her photos had been reposted on the Tumblr blog together with pornographic content.

Her friends had spotted the two photos of her posing in a dress, which had been originally posted on her public Instagram profile.

Next to the photos was a lewd comment about her body. After her friends alerted her, Shannon made a police report on Wednesday. She said: "I freaked out like crazy... I just did not expect this to happen."

Tumblr's guidelines state that users should not "post or solicit anything relating to minors that is sexually suggestive or violent".

Users can ask for pictures to be taken down if there are copyright infringements.

Media Literacy Council member Jiow Hee Jhee said the issue of innocuous pictures of minors being sexualised and reposted online without the owner's knowledge or consent is not uncommon in Singapore.

Recalling a similar incident more than 10 years ago, he said: "Photos posted by girls on (now defunct) social network site Friendster were uploaded on forums about girls in uniforms."

Dr Carol Balhetchet, a clinical psychologist, said: "Incidents like these have a traumatic impact on the students.

"It erodes their confidence and self-esteem, especially when negative comments are made about their body."

She stressed that parents and schools have to play an active role in promoting digital media literacy among students.

Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) manager Anisha Joseph said the act of taking and distributing images without consent constitutes "image-based sexual abuse".

Criminal lawyer Rajan Supramaniam of Hilborne Law LLC told TNP: "The perpetrator will be liable under criminal charges for harassment, cyberbullying, online defamation.

"It is also a breach of Section 509 of the Penal Code for insulting a woman's modesty."

Ms Gloria James, head litigation lawyer of Gloria James-Civetta & Co, said: "Victims should file an application under the Protection from Harassment Act, make a police report and send a lawyer's letter to the perpetrator demanding the content be taken down immediately."

Ms Joseph said many SACC clients do not take legal steps as "the process can be tedious and expensive". She added: "Girls can reach out to SACC for emotional support through counselling and support groups.

"We hope the authorities will consider stronger and quicker remedies beyond protection orders, especially given the time-sensitive nature of some cyber-sexual crimes."

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