Ex-boyfriend, nude photos create Web calamity for girl

April 22, 2005
Globe and Mail
By Joe Friesen

TORONTO — A 16-year-old Toronto girl is struggling with a cyber nightmare after sexually explicit photos taken by a vengeful ex-boyfriend were posted on the Internet.

Although child-pornography charges have been laid, police can't get the anonymous webmaster to remove the photos.

The pictures appeared in February, shortly after the girl told police that her former boyfriend had extorted money from her in a matter unrelated to the photos.

He decided to exact his revenge by posting five nude photos of her on the Internet. What's more, he constructed the Web page to make it seem as though she had placed them there herself.

The accused, who is 16 and can't be identified, wrote a short entry impersonating her.

Detective Constable Chris Purchas of the Toronto Police sex crimes unit said the entry makes the girl appear to be "acting in a promiscuous manner, inviting other people to address her sexually."

It was the teenager's friends who first told her that she had been exposed for all the world to see. It has been two months since she found out. She feels humiliated and has missed several weeks of school, Det. Constable Purchas said.

The photos, which were taken with the girl's consent, are still up on the Web, and are starting to appear on other sites.

"What's happening is people are going on the Internet and copying them and reposting them on other websites, making other allegations slandering her character and so forth," he said. "These pictures can never be retrieved."

Det. Constable Purchas said that despite their best efforts the police can't even get the original posting down. The website, which is a general-interest, youth-oriented site with thousands of hits each day, is overseen by a U.S.-based company whose main purpose is to block authorities from uncovering the true operators of websites.

"The Internet provider is not being very co-operative and they're ignoring our requests to have the pictures removed," he said.

The website has a lot of traffic from Canadian customers, he said, mostly between the ages of 14 and 30, and there is no other pornographic material on the site. It's mainly frequented for discussion boards, he said.

The ex-boyfriend has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, and with impersonation with intent. Police hope a vigorous prosecution will prevent this type of offence from becoming a new trend.

"That's our fear," Det. Constable Purchas said. "We're trying to send a message in the hope that we won't see more of this."

He said although it's still a relatively rare kind of offence, everyone should be aware that with the advent of the Internet racy photos could end up anywhere.

"Be careful what you give to your boyfriends because the potential [for harm] is most certainly there," he said. "Twenty years ago, if a boyfriend had an off-colour picture of a girlfriend and things didn't go well, the most he could do is photocopy it and put it on a bus shed or put it up around the school. Now he has a worldwide forum at his fingertips."

The relationship went sour in October of 2004, about a year after the pair started dating. The girl was 15 when the photos were taken and she knew that her ex-boyfriend still had them when they broke up.

The police say that before they broke up the boy was angry because she had given another male friend an expensive gift. He is alleged to have threatened to hurt her unless she gave him cash. Shortly after he was charged in connection with those allegations, the nude pictures appeared on the Web.