Update: March 10, 2:20 p.m. A spokesperson for Dropbox told VICE News that the folder described in this story has been removed from the platform: "This link has been taken down and banned so it cannot be recirculated on Dropbox. As always, we investigate reports of content that violate our Acceptable Use Policy. If we find a violation, we take down the content and, when appropriate, take other measures such as banning the content and/or reporting to law enforcement."
A Dropbox folder containing hundreds of explicit photos of female U.S. service members is currently circulating online, VICE News has learned. The women in the photos, some topless, others entirely nude, are largely identifiable and appear to be from all branches of the U.S military.
The folder is the latest example of an ongoing problem with revenge porn and online harassment in the U.S. military, one that persists even a year after the revelation of thousands of nude photos of service members shared in a Facebook group called Marines United caused a major scandal. VICE News reported in February on the existence of dozens of informal military social media groups where members continue to share nude photos and make derogatory comments about women, often alongside more banal posts about military life.
The new Dropbox folder, called “Hoes Hoin’,” contains 267 images in all and three subfolders named for specific women. Some photos show the women’s faces, others show their dog tags, others show their uniforms and name tags. The vast majority of the photos feature military clothing.
Some of the photos are selfies, others are clearly taken by another person. Some show women performing sexual acts. A few are of service members fully clothed, in apparent attempt to shame or discredit them. Finally, some photos are crude collages showing a fully clothed service member in uniform on one side and a nude photo of the same woman on the other.
Some of the photos are termed “legacy,” which means they’ve been shared repeatedly across online groups related to Marines United, while others appear to be new. (The original Marines United photos were shared via Google Drive.)
The Dropbox link first surfaced about two weeks ago on a closed and exclusively male Facebook group called “Blame Marines United (Non-Butthurt Edition),” one of a number of forums that popped up when Marines United was shut down in March 2017. Several administrators for the group were administrators for the original Marines United group, three people familiar with the groups’ operations said.
The cover photo of the group is a blue falcon, known in the military as a “buddy fucker,” or someone who snitches. Several members of the group were calling for the Dropbox link before it appeared — asking where it was, who had it, and whether specific women would be featured.
Facebook shut down the group on Tuesday after Erin Kirk Cuomo, a Marine Corps veteran and cofounder of #NotinmyMarineCorps, an advocacy group, reported the activity to the company.
The “Blame Marines United (Non-Butthurt Edition)” group’s size — close to 400 members — pales in comparison to the original Marines United group, which hosted more than 30,000 U.S. Marines, British Marines, veterans, and civilians. But the link to the Dropbox folder continues to be shared in similar forums, and it’s impossible to know its full reach. Anyone with the link can access and download the photos.
After the Marines United scandal broke last year, the Marine Corps got $18 million to address the nude photo-sharing scandal and more broadly to tackle misogyny within the ranks, according to the Military Times. Congress made the nonconsensual sharing of nude photos a criminal offense in the military in December.
But online harassment, which affects all branches of the armed forces, remains pervasive.
Cuomo said she was frustrated with the military’s failure to identify and shut down these groups. “They can’t sit two intel officers in an office for two hours a day to see what’s going on?” she said, adding that she has a full-time job and still was informed of the link.
Facebook has “pushed really hard” to tackle revenge porn on its platform, Cuomo said, but Dropbox has been relatively absent. Facebook and Dropbox did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Carla Gleason said the Department of Defense “continues to monitor and assess the social media landscape.”
“However, as social media platforms continue to expand, the challenge remains in becoming aware of and identifying victims of cyberbullying and cyber harassment, as well as identifying those individuals committing the offenses,” she said.
Cover image: General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and fellow military leaders attend the State of the Union address on Jan. 30, 2018. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images)