For the nearly 30,000 members of the Facebook page “Marines United,” a “win” meant adding a nude photograph of a female service member or veteran. The page had hundreds of these “wins,” as members took requests for photos of specific women, identified them by name and rank, and targeted them with sexual, violent comments.
But the scandal that has embroiled the U.S. Marine Corps over this Facebook page for the past week has now reportedly widened to include the rest of the military, as several media outlets report uncovering an anonymous, publicly viewable message board where service members across the military also shared and solicited photos of their female comrades.
News first broke earlier this week that the War Horse — a nonprofit news organization run by Marine veteran Thomas Brennan — had discovered “Marines United,” a private Facebook group for Marines all around the world, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
But Facebook isn’t the only place where this has happened, the BBC reported Thursday. Military personnel have also anonymously shared photos of female service members on a message board on a website called Anon-IB. And on Anon-IB, it wasn’t just Marines.
People on the page would often ask for “wins” of specific women, military branches, or installations, from the Massachusetts National Guard to Fort Hood in Texas, according to Business Insider.
Within a day of Brennan reaching out to the Marine Corps headquarters regarding Marines United, the Corps had not only requested that Facebook and Google delete the social media accounts responsible for the photos but also denounced the activity. In a video address to the Corps, the Corps commandant General Robert B. Neller called the allegations “embarrassing to our Corps, to our families, and to the nation.”
That exposure appears to have led users to flock to the publicly viewable message board, Business Insider found. Two days after the Marines United story broke, one anonymous person reportedly posted on the board, “Come on Marines, share the wealth before that site is nuked and all is lost.”
A reply included a link to a Dropbox folder called “Girls of MU.” It included thousands of photos.
While CNN reported that only four branches of the military are currently under investigation, CBS found that the Department of Defense is now looking into all branches. Posting explicit photos without permission could violate a military law against “indecent viewing, visual recording and broadcasting,” Marine Corps spokesperson Capt. Ryan Alvis told the Marine Corps Times. The punishment is up to seven years in prison.
The Senate Armed Forces Committee will hold an open hearing on the Marines United page next Tuesday. In the meantime, Justine Elena — a Marine Corps Reserves captain and “Daily Show with Trevor Noah” staffer — has launched “Female Marines United,” a GoFundMe campaign to solicit donations for a nonprofit that provides mental health help to combat veterans.
“We want women who have dealt with issues of online harassment, sexism, and feeling marginalized to know that they are not alone,” Elena writes on the GoFundMe page, “that there are men and women in addition to a number of organizations and individuals who support the military, but condemn Marines United and other sites that have dehumanized women in service.”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service did not immediately return a request for comment.